Shoulder Dislocations

What is the cause?

The most common cause for a shoulder dislocation is a fall or a sports injury. The shoulder has ligaments and tendons that keep the shoulder joint stable. If the shoulder is moved violently and the ligaments or tendons are torn, then the shoulder can dislocate. In a small number of people, the ligaments are loose from an early age, so even minor injuries can cause a dislocation, but this is rare.

What are the symptoms?

Patients with a dislocation have severe pain and cannot move the shoulder. Usually a shoulder reduction is needed in the emergency room. Some patients may be able to reduce the dislocation with the help of trainer or medic. Once the shoulder is reduced, the pain relief is usually immediate.

What is the treatment of a dislocation?

Most patients can keep their arm in a sling for a few weeks and then gradually resume their normal activity. Athletes who dislocate their shoulders during their sport may not be able to return to their sport until their strength returns to normal, which can take several weeks. Patients should seek medical attention after a dislocation so the shoulder can be examined. If the shoulder remains loose, it may be dislocate again, and further treatment should be considered. If the shoulder exam is normal, then the patient will likely do well without any further treatment, if the patient does not get injured again. Some sports or activities make further injury more likely, so a discussion with an orthopedic surgeon is recommended.

Shoulders that remain loose and are prone to reinjury may require surgery to make the shoulder stable again. Ligaments around the shoulder can be injured, and surgery can be done to repair the ligaments and stabilize the shoulder. There are many different types of surgery that can be done depending on the severity of the injury. Most surgeries can be done arthroscopically through small incisions in the shoulder. Other more complex surgeries require a larger incision to access all the different torn tendons and ligaments. In rare cases, reconstruction of the bone around the shoulder needs to done to make the shoulder stable again.