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How to Tell If You Have A Dislocated Shoulder

The shoulder is often dislocated joint in the human body. It occurs when the upper arm bone (the humerus) pops out of the shoulder socket that’s connected to your shoulder blade. Most people know right away when they’ve dislocated their shoulder due to the intense pain that’s associated with it.



Along with intense pain, there are other symptoms to watch out for if you suspect your shoulder may be dislocated. These include:

  • Swelling or bruising
  • A visible deformity, or the shoulder looking “out of place”
  • Limited or no range of motion
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in the neck or arm
  • Spasms of the shoulder muscles


Dislocated shoulders often happen to those who are physically active. As one of the most mobile joints in the body, the shoulder joint can become dislocated in several different directions. You can dislocate it to the front, back, or downward (though most dislocations occur to the front). You can also have a partial dislocation or a full dislocation.

Extreme force or an over rotation of the shoulder can cause dislocation to occur. The most common instances of a dislocated shoulder includes, but is not limited to:

  • Sports injuries, especially in contact sports
  • Traffic accidents
  • Falls on an outstretched arm or shoulder
  • Electric shocks that cause the muscles to contract so much that they pull the arm out of place
  • Seizures that cause severe muscle spasms that pull the arm out of socket



If you believe your shoulder or the shoulder of a loved one may be dislocated, do not try to pop it back into place. This should only be done by those with proper training on how to do so. Trying to pop it back without the correct training could result in broken bones, torn muscles/blood vessels, and a lot more unnecessary pain.

Immediately seek medical attention for shoulder dislocation. Once it is back in place, you will most likely need to wear a splint or sling until you regain full mobility without pain. Many people regain full mobility and function within a few weeks. However, those who have had a dislocated shoulder often experience shoulder instability and are more prone to repeat shoulder injuries. If this occurs, you may have to wear a brace for an extended period of time to make sure the shoulder heals correctly.

Most shoulder dislocations are anterior dislocations, meaning they are caused by external, forceful rotation. Treatment most often includes icing the shoulder and resting it. You will experience soreness for a few weeks after the dislocation, especially if there were any ligament tears and soft tissue damage. 

If the ligament tears or soft tissue damage was severe, your doctor may recommend surgery to fix any issues that may not heal properly on their own. 

Rehabilitation and physical therapy will also depend on the severity of the injury. The most common physical therapy exercises center around strengthening the shoulder to create more stability. This prevents future dislocations. The stronger the shoulder muscles, the less likely you will be to have a future injury. 

Come to Beacon

Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is your go-to health care provider for all your orthopedic needs. Our physicians specialize in general orthopedic surgery, total joint replacements, arthroscopic surgery, spine medicine and surgery, sports medicine, and more. There are also many regenerative and non-surgical options available to patients.

If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information! We look forward to treating you at one of our locations in the Greater Cincinnati area.