What to Do if You Dislocate Your Shoulder

A dislocated shoulder is a very painful injury which occurs when a fall or blow causes the top part of your arm bone to pop out of the shoulder socket. Your shoulder is incredibly mobile compared to several other joints in your body, allowing you to move and twist your upper arm in almost any direction. But, due to this flexibility, the shoulder joint is also one of the most unstable, and more prone to dislocating. In severe or regular cases of shoulder dislocation, damage to the tissue and nerves around the shoulder can occur.

Common reasons for a dislocated shoulder include falling onto your shoulder area, particularly on a hard surface, attempting to break a fall with your hand, or being hit in the shoulder by something heavy. If you or somebody you know has dislocated a shoulder, here’s what you should do.


#1. Get Medical Help:

In most cases, a dislocated shoulder isn’t enough of an emergency to warrant an ambulance ride. Instead, make a trip to the ER, visit a walk-in clinic, or get an emergency same-day appointment with your doctor if you can. You should aim to get medical help as quickly as possible, since the dislocated joint will only get more swollen and painful each minute. Getting the arm bone repositioned back into the socket will help ease some of the pain immediately. You may find it useful to use a sling or shoulder immobilizer to prevent further pain and injury whilst you wait.

#2. Use Ice:

Once the bone has been repositioned, you can use ice to help with any swelling and inflammation around the area. It can take anything from a few days to a few weeks for the shoulder to heal, depending on your health and the severity of the dislocation. You should apply an ice pack to the area for around 20-30 minutes every three to four hours, for at least a few days.

#3. Take Anti-Inflammatory Painkillers:

Even after having the bone placed back into the socket, it’s going to be very sore and tender for at least a few days. To help with easing the pain and swelling, consider taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, which you can get from any pharmacy over-the-counter. However, bear in mind that these drugs should not be used for extended periods of time, unless prescribed by your doctor.

#4. Surgery:

In most cases of a dislocated shoulder, surgery will not be required. However, bear in mind that some severe cases of dislocation require surgery to correctly reposition the bones. If dislocating your shoulder is becoming more frequent, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to tighten up the ligaments surrounding the joint – this will help hold it in place and reduce your risk of further injury.

#5. Stretching and Strengthening:

Lastly, speak to your doctor about whether they recommend you do any strengthening or stretching exercises to aid with recovery. In some cases, working with a physical therapist may help you regain strength in your shoulder after this injury.

Shoulders are one of the easiest joints to dislocate, so make sure that you know how to treat it to minimize further injury or pain.

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