A shoulder dislocation occurs when the bones that make up the shoulder are no longer in alignment. This most commonly occurs after a fall on an outstretched arm. This causes the ligaments that protect the shoulder joint to tear. Sometimes a dislocation may be associated with a fracture or rotator cuff tear.
The shoulder joint is made up of two bones; the humerus and scapula in the upper arm. The ligaments around the bones make the shoulder joint stable and protect the shoulder from injury.
If you think you have suffered a shoulder dislocation, a thorough history and examination should be performed by an orthopedic specialist. Our Walk-In Anytime Ortho Orthopedic Urgent Care Clinic (link to anytime ortho page) is a convenient affordable way to get an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment without having to go through the hassle and costs of a hospital emergency room.
Shoulder dislocations are diagnosed using imaging techniques such as X-rays, CT scan, or MRI. X-rays are important to determine the characteristics of the dislocation or if there is a fracture. MRI of the shoulder can identify the extent of any ligament or soft tissue injury.
Shoulder dislocations are treated with immediate reduction. Reduced shoulder dislocations can be managed afterwards with a sling, physical therapy, and rest. Some shoulder dislocations continue to be unstable or involve fractures. These require surgery to fix.
Shoulder dislocations that involve fractures or continue to be unstable may require surgery to fix the fractures or repair the ligaments in place. Surgery to repair a shoulder dislocation may consist of arthroscopic or open repair of the torn ligaments or any associated tendon injury or fracture.
After the shoulder has been reduced and repaired, the shoulder is placed in a sling to allow swelling to improve. Usually, the shoulder will be immobilized for 6 weeks to allow enough time for the ligaments to heal. Physical therapy is started 2-3 weeks after surgery.
**Disclaimer: Treatment recommendations may vary depending on your true diagnosis. Always follow the recommendations of your orthopedic provider.