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(Dislocated Shoulder; Glenohumeral Dislocation)
- Partial dislocation (also called subluxation)—the head of the humerus slips out of the socket momentarily and then snaps back into place
- Full dislocation—the head of the humerus comes completely out of the socket
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- Falling on an outstretched arm
- A direct blow to the shoulder area, such as in automobile accident
- Forceful throwing, lifting, or hitting
- Force applied to an outstretched arm, such as in a football tackle
- Pain, often severe
- Instability and weakness in the shoulder area
- Inability to move the shoulder
- Shoulder contour appears abnormal
- Numbness and tingling around the shoulder or in the arm or fingers
- Closed reduction—The doctor will move the head of the humerus back into the shoulder joint socket by applying traction to your arm. You will be given pain medication before this procedure begins.
- Immobilization—After the reduction, you will need to wear a sling or a device called a shoulder immobilizer to keep the shoulder from moving. The shoulder is generally immobilized for about four weeks, and full recovery takes several months.
- Rest—It is important to rest your shoulder and not put any strain on the joint area.
- Ice and heat—Apply ice or a cold pack to your shoulder for 15-20 minutes, four times a day, for the first two days. After the third day, use a heating pad for 20 minutes or less might help relief muscle soreness. This helps reduce pain and swelling as well. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin.
- Rehabilitation exercises—After removal of the shoulder sling, begin exercises to restore strength and range of motion in your shoulder as recommended by your healthcare professional.
- Pain medications —Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) help relieve pain.
- Surgery—Surgery is rarely needed for a first time dislocation. It is often needed for a shoulder that dislocates repeatedly.
- Do exercises to strengthen the muscles around your shoulder.
- Wear proper safety equipment and padding for protection in sports.
- Avoid falls.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.aaos.org/
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org/
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org/
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org . Accessed July 9, 2009.
Quillen DM, Wuchner M, Hatch RL. Acute shoulder injuries. Am Fam Physician. 2004;15;70:1947-1954.
Shoulder problems. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ . Published 2006. Accessed July 9, 2009.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 11/2012
- Update Date: 11/26/2012