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Dislocated Shoulder

What Is A Dislocated Shoulder?

Dislocation of the shoulder occurs when the connective tissues in the shoulder joint and surrounding area become damaged or inflamed causing the bones at the joint to become displaced due to high force or strain being placed on the area.


  • Force to the shoulder joint which pushes the bone out of socket
  • Direct impact
  • Fall onto an outstretched arm
  • Common in contact sports


  • Sudden pain and ‘popping’ sensation at the point of injury in the shoulder and down the arm
  • Restricted movement of the shoulder
  • Abnormal appearance of the shoulder


  • RICE method
  • Relocation of the joint
  • Immobilisation
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Strengthening and Stretching Activities
The main cause of a dislocated shoulder is due to sudden impact t to the area which pushes the joint out of place. This can be either from a direct hit to the area, common in contact sports such as rugby and hockey or as a result of falling onto an outstretched arm. Patients who sustain this injury are likely to feel a sudden surge of pain in the shoulder at the point of injury which may also spread to the arm. Many patients experience a ‘popping’ sensation in the joint when the injury occurs and the appearance of the shoulder can appear abnormal. Patients will most likely feel unable to resume activity through the pain and movement will most likely be restricted.

Dislocated Shoulder Diagnosis

Diagnosis of a dislocated shoulder is usually carried out by a doctor or physiotherapist who will examine the area before diagnosing the injury and an X-Ray to assess the severity of the dislocation and also rule out any further complications.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From A Dislocated Shoulder?

12 to 16 weeks is the usual recovery time for a dislocated shoulder, although you should be back to normal activity within 2 weeks.

Can You Have A Partially Dislocated Shoulder?

Yes. A partial dislocated shoulder is also known as a shoulder subluxation. This is when the top of the arm comes partly out of the socket.

Can You Move Your Arm If You Have A Dislocated Shoulder?

This depends on the severity of the dislocation. You may be able to move your arm but it could be painful. Your arm may also feel unstable and weak.

Further Info

In order to treat a dislocated shoulder, medical attention should be sought immediately in order to treat the injury and assess the severity of the dislocation with an X-ray. After the X-ray has been carried out, a doctor or physiotherapist will then relocate the shoulder. After this the patient must keep the shoulder immobilised to allow it chance to heal and return back to normal function. Rest is crucial so to not cause any further damage and to stay away from any activity that could aggravate the shoulder or causes any pain or discomfort to the area. Continuing any strenuous activity or resuming sport will not only hinder the healing process, it could lead to further damage to the injury. Applying ice to the area is also an important aspect of recovery as it will minimise any swelling and inflammation of the area. Following the PRICE method (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) when the injury first occurs and within the following 72 hours will ensure no further damage is caused to the area and prevent any further swelling of the injury which may come from resuming activity. Anti-Inflammatory medications may be taken to relive the pain of the injury and also to minimise any swelling. You may also wish to wear a shoulder support following a dislocation, to increase proprioception and provide additional support. A strengthening program is often advised by a physiotherapist to keep the area strong and ensure flexibility once the injury had healed. This should not be done without professional advice as a patient can run the risk of aggravating the area and increase the healing process. In the final stages of recovery and in the first few months of returning to training, stretching exercises may be performed to keep the area stable and strong and can also help prevent the injury reoccurring.