How to fix dislocated shoulder

A dislocated shoulder is a painful and debilitating injury that can occur due to various reasons, including sports accidents, falls, or sudden impacts. When the upper arm bone (humerus) pops out of its socket (glenoid) in the shoulder blade (scapula), it requires immediate attention and treatment. While it is crucial to seek medical help for a dislocated shoulder, understanding how to fix it in the initial moments can provide relief and prevent further damage. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and step-by-step methods to fix a dislocated shoulder, along with essential tips for a swift recovery.

Understanding Dislocated Shoulders

A dislocated shoulder is a painful injury that occurs when the upper arm bone (humerus) is forced out of its socket (glenoid) in the shoulder blade (scapula). It is a common injury, often caused by traumatic accidents, sports-related incidents, falls, or repetitive overhead motions. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and potential complications of a dislocated shoulder is essential for prompt treatment and a successful recovery.

How to fix dislocated shoulder

Causes of a Dislocated Shoulder:

  • Sports injuries: Participating in contact sports such as football, rugby, or wrestling can increase the risk of dislocating the shoulder. Sudden impacts or collisions can force the arm out of its socket.
  • Falls: Falling onto an outstretched hand or directly onto the shoulder can result in a dislocation. This can happen during everyday activities or accidents, such as slipping on ice or tripping.
  • Traumatic accidents: Motor vehicle accidents or other high-impact incidents can cause severe shoulder injuries, including dislocations.
  • Repetitive overhead motions: Certain occupations or activities that involve repetitive overhead motions, such as painting, swimming, or throwing, can gradually wear down the shoulder joint and increase the likelihood of dislocation.

Common Symptoms of a Dislocated Shoulder:

  • Intense pain: A dislocated shoulder often causes immediate and severe pain. The pain may worsen with movement or when pressure is applied to the affected area.
  • Swelling and bruising: The shoulder may become swollen and show signs of bruising due to the trauma and inflammation associated with the dislocation.
  • Limited range of motion: The ability to move the arm and shoulder is significantly reduced or completely impaired. Attempts to move the arm may result in sharp pain.
  • Visible deformity: In some cases, a dislocated shoulder may cause a visible deformity. The shoulder may appear flattened or squared off, and the arm may appear longer than the unaffected side.

Complications of an Untreated Dislocated Shoulder:

  • Recurring dislocations: Once a shoulder has been dislocated, there is a higher risk of future dislocations. The ligaments and tissues supporting the joint may become stretched or weakened, making the shoulder more prone to instability.
  • Chronic instability: Frequent dislocations can lead to chronic shoulder instability, where the joint becomes loose and prone to slipping out of place even during routine activities.
  • Nerve and blood vessel damage: The force exerted during a dislocation can damage nerves and blood vessels surrounding the shoulder joint. This can result in numbness, tingling, weakness, or even loss of blood supply to the arm, requiring immediate medical attention.

Understanding the causes, symptoms, and potential complications of a dislocated shoulder is crucial for prompt recognition and seeking appropriate medical care. By addressing the injury promptly, individuals can improve their chances of a successful recovery and minimize the risk of long-term complications.

Immediate Care for a Dislocated Shoulder

When faced with a dislocated shoulder, it is important to provide immediate care to alleviate pain, minimize further damage, and prepare for medical intervention. It is crucial to remember that while these measures can provide temporary relief, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment. Here are some steps to take for immediate care:

1. Stabilizing the Arm:

  • Stay calm: Both the injured individual and those assisting should remain calm. Panicking can exacerbate the situation and make it more difficult to provide effective care.
  • Support the injured arm: Using a sling, cloth, or any other suitable material, gently support the injured arm to prevent unnecessary movement. This helps to reduce pain and minimize the risk of further injury.

2. Seeking Medical Attention:

  • Avoid self-reduction: While it may be tempting to try to put the shoulder back into place on your own, it is not advisable. Improper or forceful attempts at self-reduction can cause additional damage to the surrounding structures, nerves, or blood vessels.
  • Contact emergency services or visit the nearest hospital: Dislocated shoulders require medical intervention to ensure proper reduction and assessment of associated injuries. Call for emergency medical services or make your way to the nearest hospital for immediate professional care.

3. Managing Pain and Discomfort:

  • Apply ice packs: Ice can help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. Wrap an ice pack or a bag of ice cubes in a cloth and apply it gently to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time, with breaks in between.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication: If allowed by the individual’s medical history and age, over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be taken as directed to help manage pain and discomfort. However, it is important to consult a healthcare professional before taking any medication.

Immediate care for a dislocated shoulder focuses on providing support, managing pain, and preparing for professional medical intervention. Stabilizing the arm and seeking timely medical attention are crucial steps to ensure a safe and effective reduction of the dislocation. Remember, the primary goal is to obtain appropriate medical care as soon as possible to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to the individual’s specific needs.

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Medical Interventions for Shoulder Reduction

When it comes to a dislocated shoulder, seeking medical intervention is essential for proper reduction and evaluation of associated injuries. Healthcare professionals, such as orthopedic specialists or emergency physicians, are trained to perform various techniques to safely and effectively relocate the shoulder joint. The specific method used depends on factors such as the severity of the dislocation, the presence of associated injuries, and the individual’s overall health. Here are some medical interventions commonly employed for shoulder reduction:

Physical Examination and Diagnostic Tests:

  • X-rays and imaging scans: These diagnostic tests help assess the extent of the dislocation, identify associated fractures or injuries, and guide the healthcare professional in determining the most appropriate course of treatment.
  • Assessing the extent of damage and associated injuries: The healthcare provider will conduct a thorough physical examination, evaluating the range of motion, joint stability, and the presence of any neurovascular compromise. This examination helps determine the appropriate method of reduction.

2. Non-Surgical Reduction Techniques:

  • Closed reduction under sedation or anaesthesia: Closed reduction involves manipulating the shoulder joint back into its proper position without making an incision. Sedation or anaesthesia is often administered to relax the individual and minimize pain during the procedure.
  • Gentle manipulation and repositioning of the shoulder joint: The healthcare professional applies controlled, gradual movements to guide the humerus bone back into the socket. This technique requires skill and expertise to avoid further injury or complications.

3. Surgical Options:

  • Open reduction: In some cases, open reduction may be necessary. This involves making a surgical incision to directly access the dislocated joint and any associated structures. Open reduction allows for a more precise reduction and repair of damaged tissues, such as torn ligaments or fractures.
  • Arthroscopic surgery: Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that utilizes small incisions and a tiny camera (arthroscope) to visualize and repair the shoulder joint. It may be employed for complex or recurrent dislocations to address underlying issues such as labral tears or damaged ligaments.
  • Post-surgical considerations and rehabilitation: Following surgical interventions, a tailored rehabilitation plan is crucial for optimal recovery. This may involve physical therapy, exercises, and gradual return to normal activities under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

The choice of medical intervention for shoulder reduction depends on various factors, including the individual’s overall health, severity of the dislocation, presence of associated injuries, and the expertise of the healthcare team. It is important to consult with healthcare professionals who can provide accurate diagnosis, determine the most suitable treatment approach, and guide the individual through the recovery process. Prompt and appropriate medical interventions greatly contribute to the successful reduction of a dislocated shoulder and the prevention of long-term complications.

Post-Reduction Rehabilitation

After a shoulder has been successfully reduced, proper rehabilitation is crucial for a full recovery and to prevent future dislocations or complications. The main goals of post-reduction rehabilitation are to restore range of motion, strengthen the shoulder muscles, improve stability, and gradually return to functional activities. A comprehensive rehabilitation plan, often guided by a physical therapist or healthcare professional, will help ensure a successful recovery. Here are the key components of post-reduction rehabilitation:

1. Immobilization and Rest:

  • Wearing a shoulder brace or immobilizer: Depending on the severity of the injury and the recommendation of the healthcare professional, a shoulder brace or immobilizer may be prescribed. These devices help stabilize the shoulder joint and limit movement during the initial healing phase.
  • Avoiding activities that strain the shoulder: During the early stages of recovery, it is important to avoid activities that may stress or strain the healing shoulder joint. This includes heavy lifting, overhead motions, or any movements that cause pain or discomfort.

2. Physical Therapy:

  • Range-of-motion exercises: Gradually, as guided by a physical therapist, gentle range-of-motion exercises are introduced to restore mobility in the shoulder joint. These exercises may include pendulum swings, passive or assisted range-of-motion exercises, and stretching.
  • Strengthening exercises: As the shoulder gains stability and mobility, specific strengthening exercises are incorporated to target the muscles surrounding the joint. This helps improve joint support and reduce the risk of future dislocations. Examples of strengthening exercises may include rotator cuff exercises, scapular stabilization exercises, and resistance training.
  • Gradual progression to functional activities: With the guidance of a healthcare professional, functional activities that mimic daily tasks or sports-specific movements are gradually introduced. This helps the individual regain confidence and prepare for a safe return to normal activities.

3. Lifestyle Adjustments and Injury Prevention:

  • Proper warm-up exercises: Before engaging in any physical activities or sports, it is important to warm up the muscles and joints properly. This includes gentle stretching, range-of-motion exercises, and light cardiovascular activity.
  • Strengthening shoulder muscles: Regularly performing exercises to strengthen the shoulder muscles can help provide stability and support to the joint. This includes targeting the rotator cuff muscles, deltoids, and scapular stabilizers.
  • Using proper technique and protective gear in physical activities: Whether it’s sports, recreational activities, or occupational tasks, using proper technique and protective gear can help minimize the risk of shoulder injuries. This includes using proper form, utilizing appropriate equipment, and wearing protective gear such as shoulder pads or braces if recommended.

Post-reduction rehabilitation plays a vital role in restoring shoulder function and preventing future dislocations. It is important to follow the guidance of healthcare professionals and adhere to the prescribed rehabilitation plan. Each person’s rehabilitation program may vary depending on the specific needs and progress of their recovery. Patience, consistency, and proper rehabilitation techniques are key to achieving a successful and complete recovery after a dislocated shoulder.

Coping with Challenges and Emotional Well-being

Recovering from a dislocated shoulder can present various challenges, both physical and emotional. Coping with pain, managing the limitations imposed by the injury, and maintaining a positive mindset are crucial aspects of the recovery process. Here are some strategies to help individuals navigate the challenges and maintain their emotional well-being during the recovery period:

1. Dealing with pain and discomfort:

  • Medication management: Follow the prescribed pain medication regimen provided by healthcare professionals. Take medications as directed and communicate any concerns or side effects to the medical team.
  • Heat and cold therapy: Applying heat packs or taking warm showers can help relax muscles and alleviate discomfort. Cold therapy in the form of ice packs can reduce swelling and numb the area.
  • Gentle movement and stretching: Engage in gentle movements and stretching exercises as recommended by a physical therapist to alleviate stiffness and promote blood circulation.

2. Seeking Emotional Support:

  • Connecting with support groups: Joining support groups or online communities of individuals who have experienced similar injuries can provide a sense of understanding, validation, and emotional support.
  • Professional counseling or therapy: If feelings of frustration, anxiety, or depression persist, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor. They can assist in developing coping strategies and provide guidance throughout the recovery process.
  • Communicating with loved ones: Share your experiences and emotions with trusted family members and friends. Their support, understanding, and encouragement can significantly contribute to your emotional well-being.

3. Mental resilience and positive mindset:

  • Setting realistic goals: Establish realistic expectations for your recovery process. Break down long-term goals into smaller milestones, celebrating each achievement along the way.
  • Practicing self-care: Prioritize self-care activities that promote relaxation and overall well-being. This can include engaging in hobbies, practicing mindfulness or meditation, getting sufficient rest, and eating a balanced diet.
  • Visualizing progress: Use visualization techniques to imagine yourself regaining strength, mobility, and returning to activities you enjoy. Positive visualization can help boost motivation and create a positive mindset.

Remember, everyone’s recovery journey is unique, and it is essential to be patient and kind to yourself throughout the process. Celebrate small victories, acknowledge any setbacks, and stay focused on your overall progress. By taking care of your emotional well-being and maintaining a positive mindset, you can enhance your overall recovery experience and empower yourself on the path to regaining full shoulder function.

Note: The information provided here is not intended to replace professional medical or mental health advice. Consult with healthcare professionals for personalized guidance and support based on your specific needs and circumstances.


A dislocated shoulder can be a distressing experience, but with timely and appropriate treatment, a swift recovery is possible. While this article provides valuable information on initial care and medical interventions, it is crucial to consult with healthcare professionals for accurate diagnosis and treatment plans tailored to individual cases. Adhering to post-reduction rehabilitation, taking care of emotional well-being, and implementing injury prevention strategies can contribute significantly to the overall recovery process. Remember, patience, perseverance, and expert guidance are key elements in fixing a dislocated shoulder and reclaiming an active lifestyle.