Shoulder dislocation: Proper management

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A shoulder dislocation occurs once the arm bone moves out of its socket. Sustaining a direct blow or excessive rotation can result to injury with evident deformity, swelling, significant pain and loss of movement.

How to care for a shoulder dislocation

Remember that it is vital to seek immediate medical care if a shoulder dislocation is suspected. Make sure that the affected arm is properly supported with a sling or the opposite arm until the individual reaches a doctor or the emergency department.

Apply an ice pack on the affected shoulder for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours during 2 weeks after the injury.
  • Use an immobilizer for the affected shoulder for at least 2-3 weeks unless instructed otherwise by the doctor. This special form of arm sling immobilizes the shoulder joint and keeps the arm close to the body. Always follow the instructions given by the doctor. In most instances, the immobilizer should be worn throughout the day daily.
  • Take the medications prescribed by the doctor. Generally, most doctors will provide an anti-inflammatory medication after a shoulder dislocation. In case the joint is evidently tender, a pain medication might be prescribed.
  • Apply an ice pack on the affected shoulder for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours during 2 weeks after the injury. In case a cold pack is not available, a bag of frozen vegetables can be used instead. Cold works by reducing the swelling as well as relieve the discomfort in the area.
  • An individual with a shoulder dislocation should sleep in a position that enables him/her to protect the damaged shoulder. If needed, utilized cushions to block the body from rolling onto the injured shoulder. In some cases, it might be required to sleep in a slightly elevated position until the arm sling is removed.
  • The rehabilitation program recommended by the doctor should be followed by the individual. The program generally includes gentle exercises to stretch the shoulder and maintain mobility of the joint.

An individual with shoulder dislocation should avoid engaging in any strenuous activity for at least 4 weeks after the injury. During the rehabilitation and recovery period, the joint is at risk for another dislocation.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on shoulder dislocation is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn how the injury is managed, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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