Menu Close

Shoulder dislocations

Shoulder dislocations 1

If you’ve ever watched a game of AFL (or even local footy in the Yarra Valley!) I’m sure you know what a shoulder dislocation looks like! Ouch! The shoulder is a highly mobile joint, being a ball and socket joint, making it susceptible to dislocation. A dislocation occurs when the humerus (ball) pops out of the glenoid fossa (socket).


Because the shoulder joint is so mobile, and can move in many directions, it is the most commonly dislocated joint in the body. A dislocation usually involves a strong force such as a sudden blow to the shoulder, and most commonly happens when your shoulder is elevated and turned out (external rotation), such as when going up for a mark in football. Another common mechanism of dislocation is falling on an outstretched arm, or a forceful blow to the shoulder such as in a car accident.

Those more at risk of shoulder dislocations are young males in their 20s, and older women.

Symptoms & Management

A dislocation is very painful, and usually causes intense pain and an inability to move the joint. There may also be numbness, weakness or tingling. A shoulder dislocation requires medical attention to relocate the joint. It is advised that you avoid trying to force the shoulder back into place, as this can cause further damage to muscles, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels if not done correctly. You will usually have an x-ray before and after relocation to determine the extent of damage.

Once your shoulder has been relocated, you should have relief from pain, however your shoulder will remain sore for a few weeks. Rehabilitation via physiotherapy is very important following dislocation. With physiotherapy, within approximately 4-6 weeks your shoulder mobility will improve to full range and strength will start to return. A strengthening and stabilising program over the next few months, prescribed by your physiotherapist will ensure you make a full recovery so you can return to normal activity and sport.


Once you have dislocated your shoulder once, you may be more vulnerable to repeat dislocations. If you are a young person who plays contact sports, your risk of a second shoulder dislocation can be as high as 90%. This is why it is so important to comply with a physiotherapy rehabilitation program, in order to reduce the likelihood of re-dislocation. If the shoulder continues to remain unstable, and you have suffered multiple dislocations, surgical intervention may be required.

If you have suffered a shoulder dislocation, it is important to contact your physiotherapist as soon as possible. Our physio’s at Seville Health have experience in treating shoulders post dislocation, as well as sports experience including work within the AFL, elite gymnastics, horse riding and more!