Treatment and Recovery for Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation occurs when the humerus (upper arm bone) and scapula (shoulder blade) become separated at the joint. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, where dislocation means the ball being wrenched from its spot inside the socket. There are several different ways that the shoulder can become dislocated, depending on the position of the arm and cause of stress during the incident. The shoulder is most susceptible to dislocation because it has the largest range of motion of any joint in the body.


Shoulder dislocations can be very painful and cause damage to several different tissues. The muscles, ligaments, nerves, and arteries in the surrounding area can be damaged, and there may be both short-term and long-term effects. Once dislocation has occurred, the joint is more prone to similar injury due to weakened tissues around the joint.

General guidelines for treatment after a shoulder dislocation has occurred:

  • Immobilize the arm in a sling. In some cases surgical stabilization is necessary for a separated shoulder, where ligaments are torn.
  • Ice the joint and let it rest. Ice should be used for about 20 minutes at a time, several times per day.
  • Anti-inflammatorys can be used to reduce pain and swelling, but should be taken in moderation.
  • Exercise and stretch, gradually increasing strength and range of movement, with guidance from a doctor.
  • Correct posture is very important to prevent more difficulties later on in recovery.


Strengthening exercises should be done for the rotator cuff, which includes all the muscles around the shoulder joint, to prevent re-injury. Rehabilitation may take over a year to complete until there is once again enough muscle to allow for full range of motion without pain. Some discomfort may be experienced during exercise, and it is important to keep sessions short and often, rather than one long session. Exercises will depend upon the nature and severity of the injury, and an orthopedic professional will be able to customize a scheduled program for the particular patient.

Randolph Orthopedics and Sports Medicine is located in Asheboro, NC. We employ skilled physicians with the experience and training to address shoulder dislocation, as well as other joint injuries. We develop a comprehensive rehabilitation program for each patient we serve. Call us at 336-626-2688 for more information.