A shoulder dislocation occurs when the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) pops out of the shallow shoulder socket of the scapula (called the glenoid). This can happen when a strong force pulls the shoulder upward or outward, or from an extreme external rotation of the humerus.
Glenohumeral dislocations are generally classified by the direction of dislocation of the humerus.
Dislocation can be full or partial:
Shoulder dislocations can also be associated with fractures—one can have a fracture and dislocation at the same time. Nerves and blood vessels can sometimes be injured with a severe shoulder dislocation, requiring immediate medical attention.
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Shoulder dislocation can be caused by:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease, condition, or injury.
Risk factors for a shoulder dislocation include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred, and will examine the injured area. Diagnosis is also based on the physical exam of your shoulder area. The doctor may do an x-ray to rule out a related fracture or damaged surrounding soft tissue and to see which direction the shoulder is dislocated.
Do not try to force the bones back into place. Seek medical care immediately. Delaying treatment increases the chance of permanent damage to the shoulder joint.
If you are diagnosed with a dislocated shoulder, follow your doctor's instructions .
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org. Accessed July 9, 2009.
Quillen DM, Wuchner M, Hatch RL. Acute shoulder injuries. Am Fam Physician. 2004;15;70:1947-1954.
Shoulder problems. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/. Published 2006. Accessed July 9, 2009.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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