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Shoulder Dislocation

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

A shoulder dislocation occurs when the top of your arm bone (humerus) moves out of the socket in your shoulder blade.

Shoulder Anatomy

DISCHARGE INSTRUCTIONS:

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your injured shoulder and arm become pale or cold.
  • You cannot move your injured shoulder and arm.
  • You have increased redness or swelling in your injured shoulder.
  • Your shoulder becomes dislocated again.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have increased pain in your injured shoulder and arm even after you rest and take your medicine.
  • You have new weakness or numbness in your injured shoulder and arm.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Medicines:

You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • A muscle relaxer may help the tight muscles in your shoulder relax.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Rest your injured shoulder and arm:

Rest helps your muscles and tissues heal. Avoid activities that cause pain or use an overhead arm motion. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is safe to return to sports or other daily activities.

How to wear a brace, sling, or splint:

A brace, sling, or splint may be needed to limit your movement and protect your injured shoulder.


  • Wear your brace, sling, or splint all the time. Take it off only to bathe or do exercises as directed. Ask your healthcare provider how many weeks you should wear it.
  • Keep your skin clean and dry. Place padding under your armpit to help absorb sweat and prevent sores on your skin.
  • Do not hunch your shoulders. This may cause pain. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • Support your wrist and hand with the sling. Cover the knuckles on your hand with your sling. Your wrist should be positioned higher than your elbow. Your wrist may start to hurt or go numb if your sling is too short.

Apply ice:

Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you place it on your shoulder. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.

Exercises:

Begin gentle exercises as directed. After healing begins, you may start light exercises so your shoulder does not get stiff. Go to physical therapy if directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. Do not lift heavy objects or do any exercise that causes severe pain.

Follow up with your healthcare provider in 5 to 10 days:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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