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Shoulder Dislocation

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Shoulder Dislocation

(Dislocated Shoulder; Glenohumeral Dislocation)


A shoulder dislocation is when the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) moves out of the shoulder socket. There are two types:

  • Partial dislocation—the head of the humerus slips out of the socket for a short time and then snaps back into place
  • Full dislocation—the head of the humerus comes fully out of the socket
Shoulder Dislocation.

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Shoulder dislocation may be caused by:

  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • A direct blow to the shoulder, such as from a motor vehicle accident
  • Forceful throwing, lifting, or hitting
  • Force applied to an outstretched arm, such as in a football tackle

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of shoulder dislocation are:


The main problem is severe pain in the shoulder. Other problems may be:

  • Changes in the way the shoulder looks
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Numbness and tingling around the shoulder or in the arm or fingers
  • A shoulder that feels weak and unstable
  • Not being able to move the shoulder


The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done.

Pictures of the shoulder may be taken. This can be done with:


It can take 3 to 4 months to fully heal. The goal of treatment is to put the bone back in place to prevent long term problems.


Most shoulder dislocations are due to accidents and cannot be prevented.

Putting the Bone Back in Place

The bone will need to be put back into place so it will heal properly. The doctor will do this by carefully moving the bone and using tension to align it. Anesthesia will be given to help manage pain.

Surgery may be needed in people who have had more than one shoulder dislocation.





  • Dislocated shoulder. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/dislocated-shoulder.
  • Shoulder dislocation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/shoulder-dislocation.


  • Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.