Shoulder Dislocation

Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

Medically reviewed by Dr. James Tan

What is Shoulder Dislocation

  • Shoulder dislocation is the condition where the upper arm bones in the shoulder joint come out of their regular place.
  • It results from accidents, sports injuries, falls, and electric shocks, causing pressure on the shoulder joint.
  • Anterior (forward), Posterior (backward), and Inferior (downward) dislocations are the three main types, each with distinct symptoms.
  • Diagnosis involves a medical history review, physical examination, and X-rays to confirm the dislocation.
  • Contact a healthcare professional if experiencing swelling, pain, or changes in hand or arm color after a dislocation.

Shoulder Dislocation is when the upper arm bones in the shoulder joint come out of their regular place. The round ball bone at the top of your upper arm, known as the humerus, inserts into the socket (glenoid) of your shoulder blade (scapula).

The dislocated shoulder is the result of the separation of connection between the ball and the socket between the bones. The dislocated shoulder can also harm the tissues, muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the surrounding shoulder joints. Thus, if you can't move your shoulder and experience a dislocation, immediately visit your doctor or any healthcare experts nearby.

This article provides information on symptoms and the treatment methods for dislocated shoulder.

How Do I Know I've Dislocated My Shoulder?

A dislocated shoulder is hard to find out. It can be a partial dislocation or complete dislocation. There are very few symptoms of shoulder dislocation. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Intense Shoulder Pain
  • Decrease in Range of Motion
  • Swelling and Bruising
  • Muscle Weakness or Numbness
  • Noticeable Shoulder Shape Changes
  • Shoulder Instability

It's critical to remember that dislocation is just one of a few different injuries that can create the symptoms listed above. Only a healthcare professional can make a conclusive diagnosis using an in-personal physical examination and imaging tests like an X-ray or MRI. It is crucial to see a doctor the very moment that you think that something may be wrong. Trying to treat a shoulder dislocation at home is extremely dangerous.

Types of Shoulder Dislocation

There are mainly three types of Shoulder Dislocation, which are explained below:

  1. Anterior Shoulder Dislocation

It is one of the most common types of shoulder dislocation, which is about 95% of all shoulder dislocation cases. In this forward shoulder dislocation, the arm bone’s head is usually move forward out of the shoulder socket. Its symptoms include severe pain in the front bone of the shoulder. Also, the limited motion range with noticeable shoulder deformity confirms the anterior shoulder dislocation.

  1. Posterior Shoulder Dislocation

It is an uncommon type of shoulder dislocation covering about 2-4% of all shoulder dislocation cases. It happens when the humerus, the head of the arm bone, moves backwards above the shoulder socket. The major causes of this dislocation are seizures, falls, electric shocks, etc.

Its symptoms include pain in the back of the shoulder and tingling or numbness also.

Sometimes, back injury could be mistaken for shoulder dislocation. It is recommended to visit an orthopaedic doctor for a proper diagnosis and to seek back injury treatment if needed.

  1. Inferior Shoulder Dislocation

This type of dislocation is very rare compared to above mentioned two types of shoulder dislocations. It happens nearly 1% in the whole case. It occurs when the head of the arm dislocates downward towards the armpit. Symptoms include intense pain and unable to move the arm. Thus, immediate medical help should be provided for this case of shoulder dislocation.

Causes of Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation usually happens when you apply too much pressure on the shoulder joint. This will dislocate the arm bone from its place, causing dislocation of the shoulder bone. The pressure can be due to sudden falls, any forceful activity during sports, and accidents. Electric shock also causes shoulder dislocation, causing muscle contraction and pulling out the arm bone from the socket.

Immediate First Aid

In case of dislocation of your shoulder, at first, keep your arm still, and if available, use the sling. Don’t try to relocate your shoulder by yourself this could worsen the situation. Also, apply the ice to reduce the pain and swelling. Then, try to seek professional help as early as possible and to reduce the risk of further injuries.

How Is a Dislocated Shoulder Diagnosed?

shoulder dislocation diagram

Image Credit: Mayo Clinic

When you arrive at the doctor’s office, your orthopaedic specialist will check for signs of tenderness, swelling, or disfigurement as well as any signs of nerve or blood vessel damage.

After the physical examination, your doctor will typically opt to take an X-ray to look for a dislocation as well as to check for any potentially broken bones or other damage such as a rotator cuff injury or to diagnose hip pains.

How Is a Dislocated Shoulder Treated?

Doctors employ various techniques for restoring the shoulder joint after a dislocation. The specific method can differ based on the doctor's experience and the direction of the dislocation.

Before the procedure, some doctors use a local anesthetic to minimize pain, and intravenous sedation is often chosen to relax the shoulder muscles.

A doctor takes additional X-rays to ensure the joint is positioned correctly. Following sling use, the doctor may advise physical therapy or treatment to regain range of motion and improve shoulder muscles. The doctor may also recommend a follow-up checkup with an orthopaedic expert.

Although early dislocations don't require surgery, it might be if the shoulder keeps dislocating. This is done to stabilize the joint, avoid subsequent dislocations, and lower the likelihood of long-term complications such as degenerative arthritis.

What Is It Like to Have Your Shoulder Put Back in Its Socket?

Your doctor may refer to the process of putting the shoulder back in its socket as “reducing the dislocation” or a closed reduction. This is often done manually using a gentle physical manipulation and you may be given a sedative or pain reliever to make the process more comfortable. In more severe cases where there are damaged nerves or blood vessels, a surgical procedure may be required. Having surgery will decrease your odds of dislocation more than once and is sometimes done in the case of young athletes.

What to Expect: Dislocation Recovery

After having it put back in its socket via a closed reduction, you will likely need to wear a special splint or sling for a few weeks to prevent it from moving while the joint heats.

During the dislocation recovery time, your doctor may recommend a medication like a pain reliever or a muscle relaxant to keep you comfortable as the pain and swelling naturally reduce.

Home Treatment

In most circumstances, a shoulder dislocation necessitates medical intervention to help limit the risk of recurrence and consequences. While waiting for medical attention, a person may try to alleviate symptoms. They can, for example, adopt the RICE approach:- rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This will assist in protecting the joint and keep it from swelling. They may also utilize prescription medicines to relieve pain and swelling. However, it is still preferable to seek immediate medical attention.

Dislocation Rehabilitation and Healing

It would help if you planned on beginning a rehabilitation program to assist you in regaining your joint's strength, stability, and range of motion after the splint or sling is taken off. If there is no major nerve or tissue damage, you should be able to recover from the injury within a few weeks. Before returning to regular activities, be sure you've got a full range of motion and have restored your strength. When it is time to remove the splint or sling, you can expect to start a rehabilitation program to help you regain your range of motion, strength, and stability in your joint.

In a case with no severe nerve or tissue damage, you can expect to heal from the injury within a few weeks. It is essential to ensure that you have a full range of movement and regain your strength before returning to regular activities. It is important to work with a physical therapist. When you get official approval from your healthcare professional, you can confidently go back to your routine without the risk of dislocating it again.

Physical exercise can help to regain strength and range of motion. Our experts recommend effective exercises to help recover your shoulder dislocation properly. The major exercise that promotes faster recovery includes: includes gentle shoulder stretching, mild resistance training, shoulder flexion and abduction and shoulder extensions.

Note: Ask for help or follow the guidelines of a physical therapist for a better outcome.

Shoulder Dislocation Treatment in Singapore

If you are experiencing intense pain, you may be dealing with a dislocation in the shoulders. Dislocation can happen at any time to anyone, and it is always an emergency. When your shoulder is out of its joint, it is crucial to see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

There are a range of causes, however, so it is not always easy to self-diagnose your condition.

Looking to get shoulder dislocation treatment in Singapore? We are ready to help! The orthopaedic doctor here at Ray of Health will diagnose your issue and create a customised treatment plan to make you feel like yourself self again. We also offer other treatments for sports injuries like ankle pain treatment and meniscus tears.

Why suffer in pain for another day? Reach out to us online, call +65 6235 8781, or chat with us on WhatsApp at +65 8028 4572. You can also talk to us by clicking the button below.


Camden Medical

1 Orchard Boulevard, #09-06

Singapore 248649

Mount Alvernia Hospital

820 Thomson Road

Medical Centre D #05-60

Singapore 574623

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Is A Dislocated Shoulder an Emergency?

Yes. If you have a dislocation, it is crucial to see a doctor as soon as possible.

While you are waiting to receive medical care, there are a couple of at-home treatments that you can start with, including the following:

  • Don’t move: Use a splint or a sling to keep it in place. It is essential to not move and, importantly, not try to push it back into place. By moving it, you can cause damage to the surrounding muscles, ligaments, nerves, or blood vessels.
  • Put ice: To help with the pain and swelling, apply ice or a cold compress as soon as possible. If you are using ice, be sure to wrap it in a thin cloth to prevent frostbite. Apply it for at least 20 minutes at a time then take a break briefly.
  • Take pain medication: To help manage the pain and swelling, take pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Cold compress works well for sprains too. If you experience sudden pain and compressing the affected area doesn't work, perhaps it is time to see an orthopaedic doctor for shoulder pain treatment.

When to call my healthcare professional

If you experience the following symptoms, then you should contact your healthcare provider:

  • Swelling, bruises, pain in shoulder, hand or arm
  • Changing the color of your hand or arm
  • Fever or any other discomfort in your body

How Can I Prevent a Dislocated Shoulder?

The majority of dislocated shoulders are caused by accidents and sports injuries. While it can be impossible to avoid unexpected accidents, there are some things that you can do to reduce your odds of dislocation during sports, including the following:

  • Wear protective gear anytime you are playing a contact sport. Wearing protective gear and pads can help minimize the risk of shoulder dislocation. This will reduce the impact during collision or falling, so having these protective gears and pads is important.
  • Exercise to keep your shoulder flexible and strong. Develop a regular workout routine to build strength and flexibility in your joints and muscles. Always remember to do stretches before working out to prevent muscle cramps.

  • Be aware that having a dislocated joint increases your risk of having another dislocation so carefully follow the plan prescribed by your physical therapist.

Dislocated Shoulder?

Here's what you should do

If you have dislocated your shoulder, here's what you should do

Do not pop it back in place unless there is a trained professional on site.

Immobilise your arm and shoulder by keeping the elbow close to the body.

Seek medical attention immediately.

Frequently-Asked Questions About Shoulder Dislocation

In the initial phase of shoulder dislocation, it is important to take rest and apply the ice for reducing the swelling. Then from first week to six weeks, you need to focus on gentle range of motion exercises as recommended by physical therapist. From six to twelve weeks of period, you can start a modest resistance workout.

This will help the rotator cuff and shoulder stabiliser muscle to gain strength. After twelve weeks of time period, you can start integrating activities. Returning to sports and activities would be determined through individual progress and recommendations from healthcare professionals.

About the Author

Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

Dr James Tan C H

Dr James Tan is a highly skilled orthopaedic surgeon in Singapore who has more than 10 years of experience in sports injury surgery and exercise medicine. Apart from partnering with the industry to pioneer advanced and proven treatment techniques, Dr Tan has treated athletes from the Singapore National Teams and professional footballers from the Singapore Premier League and the Young Lions. He is a member of the elite Asian Shoulder and Elbow Group and a founding member of the Singapore Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Society.