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How to treat a dislocated shoulder

A dislocated shoulders causes pain and result to a short period of disability. Movement of the shoulder joint is limited until it is restored. The shoulder is prone to dislocation because they are the most mobile joints in the body.

When an individual fall on an outstretched arm, it puts the joint in an uncomfortable position. Ideally, a dislocated shoulder should be fixed by trained healthcare professional.

Symptoms of a dislocated shoulder

  • Falling from an outstretched arm or the shoulder impacted from behind.
  • Severe pain and a popping feeling or sound can be heard
  • The affected shoulder becomes deformed or misaligned
  • Swelling and bruising of the area
  • Limited movement of the affected area
  • The affected shoulder hangs lower than the uninjured side and there is a depression or groove on the deltoid muscle of the shoulder.
  • Numbness, tingling sensation and weakness can be felt on the arm and hand.
    Dislocated shoulder

    Severe pain and a popping feeling or sound can be heard

Treatment

  • Avoid forcing the arm to move
  • Place a rolled blanket or a pillow between the upper arm and the chest.
  • Wrap the towel around the upper body together with the arm. Another way is to place the forearm in a sling with the elbow at a 90-degree angle. Slings immobilize and protect the shoulder from injury and lessen the pain.
  • Apply an ice pack on the affected area for at least 15-20 minutes at 4-8 times every day. Avoid placing the pack directly on the skin to prevent frostbite and making the condition worse. Wrap the ice pack with a towel before placing on the affected area. Ice constricts the blood vessels which lessens the flow of blood and inflammation around the area.
  • Take the prescribed pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lessen the swelling and pain.
  • It takes about 2-4 weeks for a dislocated shoulder to fully heal. It is also recommended to seek the help of a physical therapist for rehabilitation exercises that will tighten and strengthen the affected joint to minimize dislocation in the future. It takes about 3-6 months to rehabilitate the shoulder dislocation which will depend on the severity of the injury whether the affected person is an athlete or not.

Tips

  • Once the pain and inflammation is reduced, start applying moist heat on the affected shoulder to relax the tight and sore muscles for at least 15-20 minutes at a time.
  • The dislocated shoulder should be fixed as soon as possible after the injury to prevent difficulty restoring.

More Information

The details posted on this page on dislocated shoulder is for learning purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage muscle and joint injuries including a dislocated shoulder, enroll in a first aid course with one of our training providers.

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