Authored by JoannaRasmuson

Risk Factors and Treatments for a Dislocated Shoulder

March 13, 2019 | Orthopedics

When a shoulder becomes dislocated, the upper arm bone pops out of the socket. This can cause severe and sudden pain, numbness and loss of shoulder function. It can also cause your shoulder to look deformed at the part where it meets your shoulder blade.


Risk Factors

Because it is the body’s most mobile joint, the shoulder is easily susceptible to dislocation. That said, there are certain activities that increase your odds of sustaining this type of injury:

  • Playing Sports: Athletes are the most vulnerable to dislocating a shoulder, especially those that engage in contact sports. This is because the blunt trauma of a fall or tackle may be strong enough to force the arm bone up and out of the shoulder socket.
  • Driving: Car accidents are another common cause of dislocated shoulder. Dislocation occurs during car crashes for the same reason it occurs during sporting events.
  • Falls: It is natural for people to stick their arms out when they fall. However, just because it is natural does not mean it is safe. Falling on an outstretched arm can not only cause dislocation but can also cause the arm to break.
  • Previous dislocation: Those who have dislocated their shoulder before are at risk for dislocating their shoulder a second time.


Treatment for a Dislocated Shoulder

If you have intense shoulder pain or know that you have dislocated your shoulder, seek medical attention immediately. If this is your first dislocation, treatment may involve nothing more than popping the shoulder back in its socket. The pain should stop immediately after that. However, if this is a repeat event for you, your shoulder is likely damaged to the extent that relocation and rest are not enough. Your muscles, ligaments and tendons may be torn or the blood vessels and nerves surrounding the joint could be damaged. If not corrected via surgery, you may experience severe shoulder pain, frequent dislocation and repeat injuries over the course of your lifetime.


Recovering From a Dislocated Shoulder

Depending on how severe the dislocation was and how many times you have injured your shoulder in the past, your doctor may immobilize your shoulder for a few weeks. He or she may also recommend that you ice your shoulder three to four times a day until you regain your strength. Once the pain has subsided and the swelling has gone down, your doctor may encourage you to participate in physical therapy. During your sessions, the therapist will guide you through exercises designed to increase your shoulders range of motion and strengthen the muscles. A secondary goal of rehabilitation is to prevent future dislocations from occurring.

If you have dislocated your shoulder once, it is likely to happen again. Talk to your doctor about strength training exercises and what you can do to prevent recurrent injuries.


Dr. Larsen chose to become an orthopedic surgeon after growing up watching his father work in the same profession. He observed the love his father had for taking care of people and improving lives by fixing problems with their knees and shoulders. Dr. Larsen enjoys communicating with his patients and working together to find a solution, either through surgery or lifestyle changes.



“Dislocated Shoulder.” OrthoInfo.–conditions/dislocated-shoulder/

“Dislocated Shoulder.” Mayo Clinic.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

Telehealth is not appropriate for every medical concern, so it’s important to ask your provider whether a virtual visit is suitable for your needs.

Learn more about Telehealth

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.