Dislocated Shoulder – How it Occurs, and How it is Managed

Patients suffering from a dislocated shoulder often experience significant pain and may have great difficulty moving their arm. Shoulder injuries are not uncommon, with the majority of cases occurring amongst sporting enthusiasts. If you’re humeral head has shifted out of its socket, you may be experiencing an anterior shoulder dislocation and should schedule an appointment with Therapy Services Physio as soon as possible for an assessment. Below we will share some insight into how these injuries occur, along with some helpful strategies for management.


What Causes a Dislocated Shoulder?

Dislocated shoulders most commonly occur during fast paced sports, with a participant receiving a sharp and sudden blow to the shoulder. This type of injury is referred to as a traumatic dislocation. In non-traumatic dislocations, the joint may dislocate itself without any external force being applied. No matter how the injury occurred, it is important to seek a professional diagnosis so that a management plan can be put in place to reduce your risk of experiencing further joint dislocations.


Symptoms of Dislocated Shoulder

Individuals who have sustained a dislocated shoulder usually exhibit a clear shoulder deformity (usually a squared-off edge rather than a rounded appearance) accompanied by persistent pain. At the time of impact, the sound of the shoulder popping out of the joint can usually be heard. Other symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Numbness around the shoulder or arms
  • Recurrent joint slipping or a loose sensation at the shoulder
  • Swelling
  • Limited joint mobility
  • Bruising


Treating a dislocated shoulder requires a combination of exercise and immobilisation by means of a shoulder sling. Your rehabilitation program will commence following the removal of your shoulder splint or sling, this program will support restoration of the full range of motion and ability to your shoulder joint.

No two shoulder dislocations are the same, and your physiotherapist will create a tailored program to suit your injury and achieve optimal outcomes. Your treatment will likely involve:

  • Soft tissue massage
  • Gentle manipulation of the shoulder bones
  • Acupuncture
  • Motion exercises
  • Use of ice and heat packs to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Exercises designed to improve muscle strength (especially rotator cuff muscles)
  • Anti-inflammatory medication and/or muscle relaxants

You will likely notice an improvement within a few weeks. It is important to keep in mind that recurrent dislocation may occur – particularly in those under 25 where statistics show a recurrence rate of about 80%. You should wait a minimum of 8 weeks before commencing your usual physical activities to give yourself the best chance of a full recovery.

Therapy Services Physio are Your Partner in Recovery – Request an Appointment Today

If you are suffering from a dislocated shoulder, please schedule an appointment with one of our friendly and experienced physiotherapists today by calling (02) 8382 6935. We have a wealth of experience in dealing with dislocated shoulders and are fully committed to your recovery