Dislocated Shoulder

Editor: Dr. Amy Spencer, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, CSCS, CKTP - A Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Certified Manual Therapist. Owner and Physical Therapist, Specialized Physical Therapy in North Reading, MA.

The shoulder is the most commonly dislocated joint in the human body. A dislocated shoulder is a serious injury; it means the arm bone (humerus) has poppedSpecialized Physical Therapy Dislocated Shoulder out of the joint socket. This type of injury requires immediate medical attention. The arm bone needs to be put back into its socket as quickly as possible. Approximately 95% of all shoulder dislocations occur anteriorly, but they can occur posteriorly, inferiorly, or anterior-superiorly. Once you have dislocated your shoulder, it will be prone to dislocate in the future.

Treatment for an uncomplicated dislocated shoulder can be as simple as wearing a sling for a few weeks to immobilize the arm while the damaged ligaments heal. This should be followed by extensive physical therapy to rebuild strengthen and restore your arm’s full range of motion. Serious complications associated with a shoulder dislocation include artery and never damage, as well as a rotator cuff tear or fracture.

The following surgeries may be necessary depending on the damage done during dislocation:

  • Repair the rotator cuff.
  • Repair the biceps anchor or cartilage (labrum) lesion.
  • Tighten the shoulder capsule using capsular shift.
  • Repair the capsular ligaments.

Causes of Dislocated Shoulder:

High impact trauma or an acute injury to your shoulder could cause it to dislocate from the socket while delivering moderate to severe shoulder pain. Landing on your shoulder or arm during a fall, a direct hit to the shoulder during a rough football or rugby game, or crashing your arm into a solid object can also cause shoulder dislocation.

Symptoms of a Dislocated Shoulder:

A dislocated shoulder is extremely painful. You will have difficulty moving your arm, plus there will be bruising, swelling, and the joint will be noticeable out of place.

Treatment of a Dislocated Shoulder:

Rest is required until the arm has reset itself in the socket and any associated injuries or surgeries have healed. Once your physical therapist or physician has approved you for rehabilitation, physical therapy will be necessary to restore your shoulder’s flexibility, strength, and mobility. Stiffness in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers is common after a dislocated shoulder. Manual therapy to loosen these joints and muscles will make a significant difference. A physical therapist will massage your neck and shoulders to alleviate pain, improve circulation, and increase flexibility. You can treat the pain and swelling associated with a dislocated shoulder using heat, ice, electrical stimulation or ultrasound. A physical therapist can also recommend specific exercises to improve the strength in your upper body and shoulder. The right combination of these forms of physical therapy will help you regain normal function of your arm and shoulder.

SPT is just minutes from Andover, Reading, North Andover, and Wilmington MA

Specialized Physical Therapy is conveniently located in North Reading and also proudly serves residents in Andover, Reading, North Andover, Wilmington, Boxford, Burlington, Woburn, Stoneham, and Methuen.  We offer free and spacious parking located within a few steps away from our clinic’s door.


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Specialized Physical Therapy practices a comprehensive approach to total muscle, joint, and spine health. We are the preferred physical therapy clinic in Greater Boston, because we offer an extensive range of physical therapy services designed to restore your physical strength and mobility while reducing your pain. Our physical therapy clinic sets itself apart by:

  • Providing proven techniques for alleviating minor, major, acute, and chronic pain.
  • Specializing in sports medicine, manual therapy, post-surgical care, auto accidents, prenatal and postpartum conditions, orthopedic injuries and overuse injuries.
  • Maintaining a clean, comfortable, private and quiet clinic, making it ideal for private consulting, educating and performing the latest physical therapy techniques.
  • Focusing on your individual needs, not the bottom line, because we are a small, physical therapist-owned and family-oriented clinic.
  • Treating one patient at a time in our private treatment room to make sure that you get the personalized care and attention you need.
  • Completing your treatment from start to finish with only exceptional doctorate trained and fully licensed Massachusetts physical therapists that have excellent skills, breadth of knowledge, and invaluable experience to help you reach your goals and succeed.


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