Shoulder Dislocation, Reduced

A shoulder is dislocated when a strong force injures and possibly tears or stretches the ligaments that hold the shoulder joint together. The bones that make up the joint then move apart and become stuck out of place. The joint must be put back in place. Then it will take a few weeks for the shoulder to heal. This injury may weaken the ligaments. Weakened ligaments put you at risk for another dislocation. Another dislocation can happen even if you're hit with less force.

Shoulder dislocation is treated with a special type of arm sling called a shoulder immobilizer. This keeps your arm close to your body. This stops the shoulder from dislocating again while the ligaments heal. After a few weeks, you may start an exercise program. This will slowly bring back your range-of-motion and shoulder strength. It will also lower your risk for another dislocation.

Home care

Follow these tips for taking care of yourself at home:

  • Until your next follow-up visit, wear your shoulder immobilizer at all times or as advised by your healthcare provider. Don’t take it off at night to sleep. This is because it’s possible to dislocate your arm again in your sleep. You can take it off to bathe or dress. But don’t move your arm away from your body. Keep your arm in the same position that the sling was holding it in until you put the sling back on. During your next visit, ask your provider how long you should wear the sling.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day. You can make an ice pack by putting ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a thin towel before putting it on your shoulder. Keep using ice packs 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 to 3 days. Then use the ice as needed to ease pain and swelling.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Talk with your provider before using these medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease. Also talk with your provider if you've had a stomach ulcer or digestive tract bleeding.

  • Don’t take part in sports or physical education classes until your provider says it’s OK.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised. You shouldn’t wear your shoulder immobilizer or sling for more than a few weeks without taking it off. Keeping it on for a longer time may limit your range of motion at the shoulder joint. If you've had a few dislocations of the same shoulder, you may have lasting (permanent) damage to the ligaments. Ask an orthopedic doctor about surgery to prevent another dislocation.

When to get medical care

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Another dislocation of your shoulder

  • Swelling or pain in the shoulder or arm that gets worse

  • Your fingers become cold, blue, numb, or tingly

  • Fever

  • Chills

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