Young man with shoulder pain

At University of Maryland Orthopaedics, our shoulder specialists are experts in the treatment of shoulder dislocation. Treatment can include moving the bone back into place, medication and rehabilitation. If surgery is required, we are here to help.

What Causes a Dislocated Shoulder?

Shoulder dislocation is an injury that happens when the top of upper arm bone pops out of the socket in your shoulder blade.

Your shoulder joint is made up of three bones: your collarbone, your shoulder blade and your upper arm bone. The top of your upper arm bone, shaped like a ball, fits into a cuplike socket in your shoulder blade. A dislocation may be partial (the ball is only partially out of the socket) or full (the ball is completely out of the socket).

A dislocated shoulder can be extremely painful—it may be swollen and bruised and visibly out of place. Common causes include sports injuries, falls on your shoulder and electric shocks. Muscle contractions from an electric shock can also dislocate the shoulder.

Shoulder Dislocation Evaluation

If you think you may have a dislocated shoulder, go to your doctor or visit a local urgent care facility.

After a physical exam and X-rays, a specialist will pop your shoulder back into place. This stops the pain almost immediately.

With early treatment, a dislocated shoulder won't usually cause permanent damage and generally doesn't require surgery. You may wear a sling for a week or two and will use ice to relieve pain and swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin can also help. Physical therapy may be prescribed to help strengthen your shoulder muscles and prevent another dislocation.

Shoulder Dislocation Surgery

Dislocation may tear or stretch tendons and ligaments that hold the shoulder in place. This can make it unstable and result in another dislocation. You may need surgery to repair these injuries.

If you have had several dislocations, bone loss can accumulate over time, leading to further instability. In this scenario, a ligament repair is not successful and replacement of the bone is regarded as a better option.

Make an Appointment

Make an appointment with a shoulder specialist by calling 410-448-6400 or request an appointment online.

If You Have a Broken Bone...

Our fracture specialists can assess and treat your injury. And we'll see you within one business day.