Dislocated Shoulder

Dislocated Shoulder Symptoms and Causes

The shoulder is the most complex and mobile joint in the body, as it allows for the most range of motion. Within this intricate joint, bone, and soft tissue region, many issues can occur, such as a dislocated shoulder.  A dislocated shoulder can be partially out of the socket (shoulder subluxation or partially dislocated shoulder), or it can be fully dislocated, causing the ball and socket to be completely disjointed.

Dr. Sforzo and Dr. Dillingham are experts at treating dislocated shoulders for their patients, as well as the professional athletes they treat. Often, just getting the shoulder back in place provides a great deal of relief; however, Dr. Sforzo and Dillingham also focus on reestablishing stabilization and strengthening the shoulder via multiple advanced methods.

The glenoid socket houses the ball of the humerus bone that runs down the top of the arm. Your shoulder can also have a dislocated shoulder blade. Whether from acute trauma or chronic repetitive movement, the glenohumeral joint can become unstable, and the ball and socket can dislocate.

A dislocated shoulder will cause tremendous pain and discomfort until it is put back in place by an orthopedic surgeon. This condition also causes numbness and tingling to permeate down the arm and back. Partially dislocated shoulder symptoms and complete shoulder dislocation can include pain, instability, weakness, swelling, noticeable dislocation, and arm tingling.

A dislocated shoulder can happen to anyone at any age (even dogs), but it most commonly affects teens and young adults that are active in sports.

Continue reading for an overview of the dislocated shoulder procedures, protocols, potential complications, and frequently asked questions.

Shoulder Dislocation Treatment

How to fix a dislocated shoulder?

Closed reduction: If the shoulder has not started to spasm, the orthopedic surgeon can gently place the humerus bone back into the glenoid socket without much discomfort, and once it is back in place, the pain typically subsides quite quickly. This is called a closed reduction because it doesn’t require surgery.

If the shoulder has started to spasm, a numbing agent will be injected before the surgeon manipulates the humerus bone back into the socket.

In many cases, trauma is the cause of the injury, such as a fall or aggressive contact sports. If the tendons, ligaments, muscles, or shoulder bones are involved, there may be a need for further, more advanced treatment, such as surgery.

Shoulder dislocation surgery: Surgery is recommended in advanced cases or for those that have undergone a shoulder dislocation in the past. The surgery will provide stability for the shoulder by securing the surrounding soft tissues.

Regenerative medicine: Along with stabilization and surgery, Biologic Regenerative Medicine Injection Treatment has proven to be beneficial for assisting the body’s natural healing, which can greatly benefit any instability issues with a shoulder dislocation.

Unlike other treatments used for relief of orthopedic pain, biologic regenerative treatments are naturally rich in multiple anti-inflammatory healing factors, contain high levels of growth factors that stimulate tissue healing, extracellular matrix proteins that bind cells together, and a unique form of hyaluronic acid, a substance that acts as a lubricant.

This groundbreaking treatment is administered in the office by Dr. Sforzo, Dr. Dillingham, Dr. Stewart, or Dr. Meinhardt.  If you have been suffering from osteoarthritis pain, discomfort from sports injuries, or other orthopedic conditions, this may be a great time to make a new treatment choice. Biologic regenerative medicine treatments may free you from having to rely on oral treatments, steroid injections, and viscosupplements, but most importantly, you may be able to delay or entirely avoid further treatment or surgery.

Your orthopedic surgeon will take a shoulder dislocation x-ray to evaluate fractures and also an MRI or CT scan to look for soft tissue tears.

Dislocated shoulder recovery time

A dislocated shoulder will feel better once the ball and socket are rejoined; however, it can take several weeks to several months, depending on the injury for healing. In between this time, the shoulder will most likely feel unstable.  Wearing a brace is recommended, as is following an at-home recovery exercise program along with physical therapy to strengthen the area is essential.

Many times, rotator cuff tears will follow a shoulder dislocation due to the instability of the shoulder joint. Shoulder dislocation often involves the ligaments, cartilage, tendons, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.

Shoulder dislocation precautions

If you’ve had a shoulder dislocation in the past, the best way to prevent and be cautious about a reinjury (chronic shoulder instability) is to avoid contact sports and to maintain a proper stretching and exercise routine on a regular basis to build strength and mobility. It’s important to wear protective gear when doing activities or sports.   Physical therapy is also vital for healing and optimal functioning of the shoulder. Our patients can attest to the quality of care provided at our practice and the ongoing follow-ups and training we provide to keep you safe and living your best life.

Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine has a group of elite physical therapists on site, making our treatment patient care and communication convenient for patients and ideal for our practitioners.

Types of shoulder dislocations

Anterior – An anterior shoulder dislocation happens in the front of the shoulder. This is when the humerus bone gets pushed forward and dislocates in the front of the arm.  This often occurs when the trauma happens as the arm is extended.

Posterior –  A posterior shoulder dislocation happens in the back of the shoulder. This is when the humerus bone gets pushed backward or upwards and dislocates the joint. This often happens when the trauma happens from excessive movements, such as with a seizure.

Inferior – This is the least common form of shoulder dislocation, but it does happen when the arm is pushed downward and the humerus bone slides down out of the socket.

Shoulder Dislocation Exercises

Doing the prescribed shoulder stretches and exercises will prevent your shoulder joint from getting too stiff, and it will strengthen and keep your shoulder flexible, which will also prevent future issues.

Frequently prescribed exercises for dislocated shoulder are as follows:

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

Standing with your feet hip-distance apart, arms hanging comfortably at your sides, squeeze the back of your shoulder blades together and hold for several seconds; Repeat 10 to 20 times.

Shoulder Shrug

Standing with feet hip-distance apart. Hold a lightweight in each hand and let your arms hang gently at your sides. Shrug your shoulder up as far as you can, and then relax your shoulders back down. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

Wall Push-Ups

Standing away from the wall, place your hands on the wall directly in front of your shoulders. Gently push towards the wall (like a push-up) and re-straighten your arms. Repeat up to 10 times.

Forward Flexion

Sitting in a chair, place your hands on your thighs.  Clasp your hands together and straighten your elbows.  Gently try and raise your arms up in front of your torso.  Keep your injured shoulder as relaxed as possible. Keeping your elbows straight, bring your arms back down. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

Shoulder Extension (Isometric)

Stand with your back against the wall and arms straight at your sides. Keeping your elbows straight, push your arms back into the wall. Hold for 5 seconds, and then relax. Repeat 5-10 times


What is the fastest way to heal a dislocated shoulder?

Immobilization is critical for stabilizing the shoulder; however, proper exercises and stretching are equally as important for range of motion and stability. Most individuals find relief from icing the shoulder for 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off throughout the day. Bracing the shoulder is also beneficial to alleviate any jarring movements or injuries during the healing process.

How do you fix a dislocated shoulder?

An orthopedic surgeon will need to perform a closed reduction to manually put the ball and socket back into position.  If there are advanced issues or other injuries associated with the dislocation, surgery may be necessary.

How long does a dislocated shoulder take to heal?

You will feel immediate relief from pain once the joint is properly placed back into position. The stability of the shoulder and range of motion will take several weeks to month and requires physical therapy, as well as at-home exercise and stretching. Physical therapy is highly effective in helping to improve range of motion, strengthening the surrounding muscles, training patients to avoid reinjury, and aiding in healing.

How painful is a dislocated shoulder?

A dislocated shoulder is very painful. If it is not treated immediately, it will start to cause severe spasms within the shoulder and cause even more discomfort. Seeking medical treatment promptly is vital for pain relief.

What does a dislocated shoulder look and feel like?

A dislocated shoulder will be very difficult to move. It causes extreme pain. This will affect the way that the patient is able to move. A dislocated shoulder will be stiff, almost locked in place due to the pain. It will be swollen, red, tender to the touch, and excruciating to move. It may cause numbness and tingling in the arm, back, and sometimes the hand. Receiving prompt treatment from an orthopedic surgeon is critical.

Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine puts their patient’s needs first above all else.

Focusing On You

As healthcare is ever changing, Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine, is doing things differently…

  • Christopher R. Sforzo, M.D. is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship trained in hand and upper extremity surgery. He provides expert care in the treatment of problems involving the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand. He performs many procedures using minimally invasive techniques includi
  • Christopher L. Dillingham, M.D. is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship trained in hand, shoulder, and arm surgery. He specializes in the treatment of problems with rotator cuff disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome and nerve injury, joint replacement, arthritis surgery, fracture repair, foot and ankle
  • Charles E. Stewart M.D. is a board certified, Johns Hopkins fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in adult complex reconstruction of the lower extremity. His specialties include, lower extremity sports injuries, meniscal injuries, partial knee replacement, total hip and knee arthroplasty (replacement), as
  • Philip A. Meinhardt, M.D. is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship trained spine surgeon. He specializes in adult spinal surgeries including reconstruction of spinal deformities, minimally invasive/microscopic spinal procedures, decompression, spinal instrumentation, fusion procedures and microscopic cer



After tearing my rotator cuff, not only was I experiencing pain but my quality of life was diminished. Playing golf and working out were painful rather than enjoyable. Graci and I sought out Fellowship trained Dr. Christopher Sforzo and the team at Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine. I was treated non-surgically and am now pain free, mobile and enjoying everything I did before.

- Dennis and Graci McGillicuddy

As avid golfers and tennis enthusiasts, our rotator cuff injuries left us in pain, and unable to enjoy our sport. In researching for the most qualified surgeons, we found that Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine not only had the highest level of training and experience, but they were also highly recommended by friends and associates who had excellent results. We, too, had outstanding…

- Mike Wilton, Bud Polley and Arnie Vance

I was visiting the area looking at property and considering a full time re-location from Minnesota when I was in a traffic accident. The result was a very painful shoulder injury that would ultimately require bilateral RTC repairs. I was unable to undertake regular day-to-day activities or participate in my favorite sport – tennis. It was essential that I choose a shoulder specialist that could quickly set…

- Pat Cooper

Over the years we had seen several orthopedists in town but were never impressed. They seemed to lack knowledge or compassion or both. Then when Liza was in high school, she went to Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine for a minor sports injury. They not only diagnosed her somewhat obscure problem, but explained things in a way that she understood without being patronizing…

- Liza, John and Betsy Kane-Hartnett

As a very busy business owner in Sarasota, having not one, but two, massive rotator cuff tears had a debilitating effect on both my personal and professional life. From my first consultation with Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine, I knew I was in good hands. The surgeons are board-certified and fellowship-trained, which gave me the confidence in achieving a successful outcome. More importantly,…

- Bob Kirschner

Latest Blog Posts