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Shoulder Dislocation


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

Shoulder Anatomy



  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Muscle relaxer: This helps 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.

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

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


You may need to rest your injured shoulder and arm, and avoid activities that cause you pain. Rest your shoulder and arm to help your muscles and tissues heal. Your healthcare provider may have you limit your shoulder movement for up to 6 weeks. After 6 weeks, you may be told to slowly increase your activities. It may take 4 to 6 months for your shoulder to heal completely. You may need to wait at least 6 months before you return to your usual activities. Rest your shoulder as directed.

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 or bone specialist 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.


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 and place it on your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.


Begin gentle exercises as directed. After healing begins, you may start light exercises so your shoulder does not get stiff. Physical therapy also may be ordered for you. 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.

Contact your healthcare provider or bone specialist 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.

Seek care immediately 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.

© 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.