Dislocated Shoulder

Your shoulder is your most mobile joint, and while that gives you an enormous range of motion, your shoulder is also the most frequently dislocated joint in the human body. 

In Austin, Texas, at Dr. Benjamin Szerlip, provides state-of-the-art care and treatment for dislocated shoulders, relieving pain and instability while reducing your risk of future and recurring dislocations.

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What Patients Are Saying

“Great staff at reception area. Very pleasant and professional medical staff. Wait time was appropriate. I appreciate Dr. Szerlip’s approach. He answered all my concerns. I’ll continue to receive steroid injections as long as they’re helpful. Then will work to create a plan to maintain my shoulder function. So, no complaints.” — Gretchen H.

What Is a Dislocated Shoulder?

A dislocated shoulder is a condition that occurs when the upper arm bone (humerus) becomes displaced from its socket within the shoulder blade. This usually occurs due to a forceful impact, such as a fall or collision, or from extreme twisting of the arm.

When the shoulder dislocates, it causes intense pain, swelling, and instability in the joint. The arm may appear visibly out of place, and movement becomes severely limited.

Treatment often involves gently maneuvering the bone back into its socket followed by a period of rest, immobilization, and rehabilitation to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint.

Types of Shoulder Dislocation

In addition to partial and full dislocations, your shoulder can dislocate in different directions. 

Anterior dislocation (forward dislocation) is the most common type of dislocation

A posterior dislocation occurs when your humeral head shifts toward the back. 

Inferior dislocations are the least common type of this injury and occur when your humeral head moves down and out of the glenoid. 

Symptoms of a Shoulder Dislocation

Symptoms of a dislocated shoulder vary based on whether the dislocation is full or partial, as well as the direction of the dislocation. 

For example, you may experience:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Numbness or tingling in your arms
  • Bruising
  • Weakness
  • Decreased range of motion


Dislocated shoulders typically have an abnormal appearance, like a lump at the joint, or your arm may hang at an awkward angle.

What Causes a Shoulder to Dislocate?

Several acute injuries, as well as structural irregularities in your shoulder joint, can lead to dislocation or subluxation.


Multidirectional Instability

Traumatic injuries that forcefully pull or push your humeral head out of the glenoid are common causes of shoulder dislocation. 

These shoulder injuries can also tear ligaments in your shoulder joint and your labrum — the ring of cartilage around the edge of the glenoid. Some labral tears are termed called Bankart lesions. 

You may also damage your shoulder muscles or break a bone.

Multidirectional instability is a less common source of shoulder dislocation. These patients may develop shoulder instability or chronic dislocation issues without a history of injury.  They commonly have naturally loose joints throughout their body, sometimes referred to as being “double-jointed.”

What Causes a Shoulder to Dislocate?

You should seek medical attention if you have obvious shoulder dislocation symptoms, chronic pain, or “looseness.” Dr. Szerlip can diagnose shoulder instability with a physical examination of the joint. He will also order a diagnostic imaging service, such as an X-ray and MRI, to confirm diagnosis and guide treatment.

What Treatment Is Available For Shoulder Dislocation?

The first step in treating a dislocation is to place the humeral head back into the glenoid, a procedure called reduction.  This is typically done by an Emergency Room physician when due to traumatic injuries.  

Once reduction is complete, your doctor may immobilize your shoulder and arm in a sling or brace to help keep the joint in place. You can apply ice to your shoulder several times a day to reduce pain and inflammation.

Long-term treatment might be either conservative or surgical depending on the nature of the dislocation, age and activity level of the patient, amount of damage to the shoulder joint, and history of prior dislocations.

What Are the Available Treatments for Chronic Shoulder Instability?

Dr. Szerlip may suggest surgery to repair the damaged shoulder joint.  The procedure is typically done arthroscopically for soft tissue (Bankart) repair, but occasionally a bone graft procedure (Latarjet) is needed which is done with open surgery.

What is Arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a surgery that is minimally invasive and used to treat joint issues. It requires a small camera, known as an arthroscope, inserted through a tiny incision into the joint. This allows Dr. Szerlip to visualize the inside of the joint on a screen in real-time.

With specialized instruments, he can then repair damaged tissue, remove debris, or perform other necessary procedures without the need for large incisions. Arthroscopy is commonly used for issues like torn ligaments, cartilage damage, or joint inflammation.

Ask Dr. Szerlip about your shoulder repair options and learn more about what surgical approach can deliver the best results for your shoulder instability.

If you have shoulder pain and are concerned about a dislocation, call Dr. Szerlip or make an appointment online today.