Shoulder injuries: Caring for a dislocated shoulder

A dislocated shoulder is a common injury that occurs once the arm bone is thrusted out of the shoulder socket. Even though the shoulder is a mobile and versatile joint, it is susceptible to injuries. The injury is oftentimes a result of sustaining a direct blow or extreme rotation that results to immediate swelling, evident deformity, loss of movement and intense pain in the joint. It is vital that you know how to properly manage for a dislocation to hasten the recovery period.

What to do if an individual has a dislocated shoulder?

The initial step is to seek medical care right after the shoulder dislocates. Always bear in mind that the affected arm must be supported with either a sling or the opposite arm until a doctor can be seen.


It is vital to immobilize the shoulder at least 2-3 weeks unless directed otherwise by the doctor. This is a basic form of arm sling that immobilizes the shoulder joint and keeps the arm at close proximity to the body. The instructions given by the doctor should be followed carefully. In most circumstances, this involves the use of the immobilizer throughout the day.

Dislocated shoulder

Apply an ice pack on the damaged shoulder for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for up to 2 weeks right after the injury.


Medications should be prescribed by the doctor. In most cases, the doctor will prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication after sustaining a dislocated shoulder. Once the shoulder is evidently tender, a pain medication might be prescribed.

Application of ice

Apply an ice pack on the damaged shoulder for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for up to 2 weeks right after the injury. If a cold pack is not available, an alternative is a bag of frozen vegetables. By using cold therapy, it helps prevent swelling and reduces the pain.

Proper position

The individual should sleep in a position that protects the damaged shoulder. If required, you can use pillows to prevent the body from sloping over onto the affected shoulder. It might be required to sleep in a slightly elevated position until the arm sling is removed.

The rehabilitation program must be strictly followed. In most cases, the program involves mild exercises to stretch the shoulder and maintain the mobility of the joint. The physical therapist will determine the suitable activities for the condition of the individual.

Important considerations to bear in mind

Do not attempt to restore a dislocated shoulder into its place since this can lead to lasting damage to the shoulder joint.

Avoid engaging in strenuous activities for at least 4 weeks. During the recovery and rehabilitation period, the shoulder is at high risk for another dislocation. Prevent further injury by avoiding strenuous shoulder movements using the affected arm. The activities to avoid include tennis, push-ups, boxing, golf and dancing.

In case the shoulder has the tendency to dislocate regularly, the doctor might show the individual how to properly relocate the shoulder. Nevertheless, it is vital to seek medical care to ensure proper placement is restored.


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