If your shoulder becomes wrenched forward, backward or downward during an activity, it can become dislocated. This means it has pulled out of its socket. Of course, this can be very painful and incapacitating. Often, it takes a substantial hit or fall to cause your shoulder to become dislocated.

A common type of dislocation is when the shoulder slips forward. This is known as anterior instability. This means the upper arm bone has moved forward and down out of its joint. This often occurs when the arm is in a throwing position.

What Causes the Shoulder to Dislocate?

Dislocation commonly occurs when the arm is moved in a direction that is beyond its limits. If the muscles are unprepared to resist or they are simply overwhelmed by the force of the impact, the ball of the humerus bone will pop out of the shoulder socket. This is often referred to as shoulder instability. If the dislocation is only partial, where the upper arm bone is partially in and out of the socket, it is known as a subluxation.



As noted, the shoulder can dislocate forward, backward or downward. In each case, the symptoms remain the same:

  • Deformity, the arm will appear out of position
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Swelling, numbness, weakness and bruising
  • Discomfort while walking


A dislocated shoulder can also tear the ligaments or tendons that reinforce the joint capsule. Less common is nerve damage.

If you suffer a dislocation, you will need to see a doctor at the Florida Hospital Celebration Health Sports Medicine Program as soon as possible. They will be able to examine the region more closely and get a detailed look at what has occurred.



The first step in treating the dislocation is to put the head of the humerus back into the joint socket (glenoid fossa) of the scapula. The doctor will then follow up with an x-ray to make sure the injury didn't fracture any surrounding bones. The arm is then immobilized in a sling or a device called a shoulder immobilizer for several days.

During the rest stage, you'll be asked to rest the shoulder and apply ice to the area three to four times a day. After the pain and swelling is under control, you'll begin rehabilitation, which includes exercises designed to restore the range of motion of the shoulder and strengthening the muscles to prevent future dislocations. These exercises may progress from simple motion to the use of weights.

Learn about shoulder dislocation surgery.


If you have questions about a shoulder dislocation or want to make an appointment, please contact one of our Patient Care Coordinators and they'll be happy to assist you.