Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation is a condition when the hump of the upper arm bone detaches from the shoulder joint. This condition is more prone to occur in people whose joints are too flexible, elderly people, and people who actively exercise.

The shoulder joint is a joint that can be moved in various directions. The cavity in the shoulder joint is also classified as a shallow cavity. Because of this, the shoulder joint is the most prone to dislocation .

Although it can slip backwards or downwards, the bones of the upper arm more often slip forward (anterior shoulder dislocation). This condition generally occurs when performing the movement of throwing objects or holding the body when falling.

Causes of Shoulder Dislocation

Dislocation of the shoulder is caused by injury to the shoulder, among others as a result of:

  • Sports, for example soccer, volleyball , and gymnastics
  • A traffic accident, such as a motor vehicle collision that causes a hard impact on the shoulder
  • Falling, especially when the reflex hand holds the body
  • A spasm or electric shock, which causes the muscles around the shoulder to contract and move out of place

Symptoms of Shoulder Dislocation

A person with a shoulder dislocation may experience the following signs and symptoms:

  • A bulge near the shoulder
  • Unbearable pain in the shoulder
  • The arms seem to stick out
  • Swelling and bruising around the shoulder
  • Difficulty or inability to move the arm
  • Tense the muscles around the shoulders
  • Numbness in the neck, arms, or fingers

When should you go to the doctor?

Immediately seek medical help from a doctor if you experience the above complaints, especially if the complaints appear after an accident. While waiting for help, there are things to keep in mind, namely:

  • Do not forcefully move or massage a dislocated shoulder, as it can damage the surrounding muscles, nerves, and blood vessels
  • Compress the dislocated shoulder with ice wrapped in a towel, to reduce pain and swelling

Diagnosis of Shoulder Dislocation

The doctor will ask about the symptoms experienced and the incident that caused the upper arm bone to come loose, then perform a physical examination. After that, the doctor will also perform an X-ray examination of the patient's shoulder, to see how far the shoulder joint is detached and detect damage to the surrounding tissue.

Shoulder Dislocation Treatment

Treatment of shoulder dislocation should be done as soon as possible to prevent the joint from becoming swollen and the pain from getting worse. The methods used include:

Shoulder reposition (closed reduction)

The doctor will return the upper arm bone that is displaced or detached to its original position. Before the procedure, the patient will be given muscle relaxants, sedatives, or anesthetics, to reduce pain during the procedure. The pain will immediately subside after the upper arm bone returns to its position.


Surgery is performed if shoulder dislocation occurs repeatedly and the supporting network around the shoulder is already weak. The purpose of the operation is to improve the position of the shoulder and tighten the weak or torn supporting tissue.

Surgery is also performed if shoulder dislocation causes damage to nerves or blood vessels, but this condition is rare.

Installation of props

The doctor will install a special support to keep the patient's shoulder from moving. The length of wearing a brace depends on the condition of the injured shoulder, it can be just a few days or up to 3 weeks. However, total recovery generally takes 3–4 months.

Once the shoulder dislocation is resolved, the doctor will recommend that the patient do self-therapy to ease the pain and speed up the recovery process, among other things:

1. Compress the shoulder

Applying a compress with ice wrapped in a towel can relieve pain and swelling on the dislocated shoulder. Apply the compress for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times a day. After the pain and swelling subsides, give a compress with warm water for 20 minutes, to relax tense muscles.

2. Resting the shoulders

Do not carry heavy loads and lift your arms until the condition of the shoulder improves. Avoid also doing movements that previously caused shoulder dislocation, as well as movements that cause pain.

3. Taking pain relievers

Pain relievers, such as paracetamol , can help relieve shoulder pain. It is important to remember, follow the instructions for using the medicine and stop using the medicine after the pain subsides.

After the shoulder dislocation improves, the doctor will recommend the patient to undergo physiotherapy . The purpose is to restore the range of motion, strength, and stability of the shoulder joint. That way, the patient can return to normal activities.

Complications of Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation can cause several complications, namely:

  • Damage to nerves, muscles, connective tissue between bones (ligaments), connective tissue between bones and muscles (tendons), or blood vessels, around the dislocated shoulder joint
  • The shoulder becomes unstable so there is a risk of repeated dislocations

Shoulder Dislocation Prevention

Shoulder dislocation can be prevented by self-efforts, such as:

  • Exercise regularly, to maintain the strength and flexibility of the shoulder joints and muscles
  • Use protective equipment when doing sports that involve physical contact, such as football
  • Be careful in activities so as not to fall or suffer an injury that risks causing shoulder dislocation

A person who has suffered from shoulder dislocation is more likely to experience shoulder dislocation again. Therefore, follow the physiotherapy program for shoulder dislocation as recommended by the doctor, to maintain the stability and strength of the shoulder.

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