Management of a dislocated shoulder

23 August 2017
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23 August 2017, Comments: 0

A dislocated shoulder arises if the arm bone moves out of the shoulder socket. It is often a result of a strong strike or blow or excessive rotation of the joint. In most cases, the injury causes evident deformity, intense pain, immediate swelling and loss of joint movement.

Caring for a dislocated shoulder

It is vital to seek medical care right after a dislocated shoulder occurs. Make sure that the injured arm is properly supported with either a sling or the opposite arm until a doctor is consulted or the individual is taken to the emergency department.


Apply an ice pack on the affected shoulder for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours during the initial 2 weeks after the injury.

  • Immobilization – a dislocated shoulder should be immobilized for at least 2-3 weeks unless otherwise directed by the doctor. This is a special form of arm sling that immobilizes the shoulder joint and keeps the arm close to the body. Make sure that the instructions of the doctor are carefully followed. Generally, it should be used throughout the day.
  • Medications – anti-inflammatory medications are usually prescribed after a dislocated shoulder. If the joint is quite tender, a pain medication is also given.
  • Apply an ice pack on the affected shoulder for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours during the initial 2 weeks after the injury. An alternative is a pack of frozen vegetables. The cold works by preventing the swelling and alleviating the pain in the area.
  • The individual should sleep in a position that protects the injured shoulder. If needed, use cushions or pillows to prevent the body from tossing onto the injured shoulder. It might be essential to sleep in a minimally elevated position until the arm sling is removed.
  • The rehabilitation program must be followed as instructed by the doctor or physical therapist. The program usually includes gentle exercises to stretch the shoulder and maintain joint mobility. The therapist will determine the suitable exercises for the condition.

In case an individual regularly ends up with a dislocated shoulder, the doctor will show the individual how to properly relocate the joint. Nevertheless, it is vital to seek medical care as quickly as possible to ensure proper placement.


Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a dislocated shoulder is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage this form of shoulder injury, register for a first aid and CPR course with Toronto First Aid.

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