Shoulder Dislocation and Separation

What is a shoulder dislocation?

A dislocated joint is an emergency. If your shoulder looks abnormal in the way that it hangs or moves or you have numbness, seek medical attention. Treatment depends on which joint you dislocate and the severity of the injury. It might include manipulations or surgery to reposition your bones, medication, a splint or sling, and rehabilitation.

Dislocation occurs when the bones on opposite sides of a joint do not line up. Dislocations can involve any of the three joints.

What is a shoulder separation?

Shoulder separation or "separated shoulder" occurs when your collarbone does not meet the shoulder blade properly at the point where the two bones normally meet. It is caused by damage to the ligaments holding the joint in place, which often occurs when the ligaments are partially or totally torn during a fall on an outstretched hand or a powerful hit to the shoulder joint.

A dislocation of the sternoclavicular joint interrupts the connection between the collarbone and the breastbone or sternum.

The most common dislocation is when the ball component of the shoulder joint comes out of its socket in the glenohumeral joint. It can be dislocated toward the front or the back. In most cases, this is caused by a powerful force pulling the shoulder outwards and causing the ball to come out of the socket. The forward dislocation is caused by the arm being forcefully twisted outward when the arm is above the level of the shoulder, from falls or a direct blow to the shoulder. Posterior dislocations are much less common than anterior dislocations and can occur from seizures or electric shocks when the muscles of the shoulder contract and forcefully tighten.

Ballplayers are at particular risk for future dislocations as the joints are under a lot of pressure. The arm will not look normal and the shoulder can dislocate downwards, backwards or forwards.

Dislocation can also cause damage to the soft tissues that support the joint, which may include tearing or straining the ligaments and tendons.


The treatment for a ball and joint dislocation is typically a procedure called a reduction that involves putting the ball back into the socket.

Epidural Corticosteroid Injections

Your doctor may recommend epidural steroid injections after other noninvasive treatment approaches have failed to relieve your pain.

Arthroscopy and Arthroplasty

Arthroscopic surgery, also known simply as arthroscopy and arthroplasty are two minimally invasive surgical types. A traditional or open surgical procedure is one that opens up an area fully. Minimally-invasive procedures encompass both small incision surgeries and those with minimally invasive techniques that do not open up an area fully. Arthroscopic surgery

Shoulder Tear Repair

During arthroscopic surgery, the doctor will examine the rim and the biceps tendon. If the injury is confined to the rim itself, without involving the tendon, the shoulder is still stable.

Rotator Cuff Surgery

Minimally invasive rotator cuff surgery is our expertise. Find out from the orthopaedic experts at Main Line Health about the latest treatment options to repair a rotator cuff tear.

Shoulder Joint Replacement

Learn more about the total shoulder joint replacement and reverse total shoulder replacement surgeries offered and Main Line Health.

Joint Distension

Joint distension, or hydrodilitation, involves injection of sterile water into the joint to expand the area and help the adhesions loosen and pull away so the shoulder is no longer restricted.

Non-Surgical Orthopaedic Treatments

Some orthopaedic conditions are first treated with non-surgical procedures followed by surgery as the next step.

Physical Therapy

Each inpatient and outpatient physical therapy rehab is individually designed and administered by a licensed physical therapist who consistently guides you from that first visit all the way through recovery.


Pain Management

Discover how Main Line Health experts serve Philadelphia by treating a wide range of conditions, including back, neck and oncology-related pain.