Shoulder Dislocations  

The shoulder is a “ball-and-socket” joint in which the top of the arm bone (the ball) fits neatly into the glenoid cavity (the socket), located at the end of the scapula. A shoulder dislocation occurs when the arm bone is forced out of the glenoid cavity, either partially or completely.  

Shoulder Dislocation Causes    

Shoulder dislocations aren’t rare—in fact, the shoulder is the most commonly dislocated joint in the body thanks to its wide range of motion and frequent use. Still, it takes a pretty tough blow to knock the arm bone out of place.  

Shoulder dislocations may result from:  

  • Falling off of a bike, off a ladder or from a tall height  
  • Motor vehicle accidents  
  • Participating in high-impact sports such as football, hockey, gymnastics and snowboarding   

Anyone can dislocate their shoulder, although this injury most often affects younger men and women who tend to be more active.  

Shoulder Dislocation Symptoms  

Symptoms of a partially or completely dislocated shoulder can include:  

  • Significant shoulder pain that may travel down the arm or toward the neck  
  • Swelling  
  • Bruising  
  • A visible disfigurement, such as a lump or bulge, around the shoulder 
  • Muscle spasms  
  • Numbness 
  • Inability to move your arm  

It’s important to promptly seek medical care if you think you have a dislocated shoulder. While you’re waiting for medical assistance, be sure to keep your arm still and ice your shoulder to help control swelling. Never try to push your shoulder back into place on your own.  

Shoulder Dislocation Diagnosis  

A physician may diagnose joint dislocation by examining the shoulder and asking questions about how the injury occurred. X-ray imaging may also be performed to view images of the shoulder joint and confirm the diagnosis.  

Shoulder Dislocation Treatments

Athletes, weekend warriors and people throughout the Tampa Bay area rely on Tampa General Hospital’s Orthopedic Institute for specialized joint care. Often, treating shoulder dislocation involves a closed reduction—a process where a physician manually places the upper arm bone back into the joint socket using careful movements. Shoulder immobilization with a sling may also be recommended in the weeks following treatment, sometimes along with physical therapy or at-home exercises to help restore joint flexibility and strength.