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.

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.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.