Dislocated shoulder

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Falling onto an extended arm is the usual cause for a dislocated shoulder. It usually takes between 12-16 weeks for this injury to heal once it has been restored into place.

In this injury, the ball joint of the upper arm popped out of the shoulder socket. The adjacent tissues might be overstretched or even torn. The shoulder joint is easily damaged since it rests in a shallow socket. This is why the arm is mobile and able to move in various directions, but also unstable.

Some individuals end up with a dislocated shoulder during contact sports such as rugby. Among the elderly, they are prone to the injury due to falls.

Indications of a dislocated shoulder

In most instances, the ball part of the joint moves out to the anterior aspect of the shoulder socket. The injury is usually evident since:

  • There is inability to move the affected arm and intense pain
    Dislocated shoulder
    There is inability to move the affected arm and intense pain
  • The shoulder appears square rather than round
  • There is a bulge or lump beneath the skin in front of the shoulder

What should I do?

If an individual is suspected with a dislocated shoulder, bring him/her to the nearest emergency department right away.

Do not attempt in any way to restore the arm back since this can damage the tissues, blood vessels and nerves surrounding the shoulder joint. While waiting for the medical team, avoid moving the upper arm as much as possible. You can place something soft such as a pillow or blanket in the space between the arm and side of the chest for support. If possible, create a simple sling to support the lower arm across the chest with the elbow bent at a right angle.


Once the individual arrives in the emergency department, he/she will be examined. An X-ray is taken to check for any fractures.

If there is no fracture, additional scans are performed to check the injury in more detail. Once it is established that there is no fracture, the arm is steadily manipulated into the shoulder joint which is a procedure called as reduction.

Surgery is oftentimes needed if the tissues around the joint are severely torn and the joint is unstable. In case the tissues are overly stretched but not torn, surgery can be avoided by performing the suitable exercises to strengthen the joint.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a dislocated shoulder is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage joint injuries including a dislocated shoulder, register for a first aid and CPR course with one of our training providers.

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The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only.
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