Dislocated Shoulder – Causes, Risks and Management


Shoulder dislocations can be a very scary event. One second you’re throwing a ball to your dog or playing a friendly game of touch, next second you’re clutching onto your shoulder- feeling as though something has shifted in and out, or worse- your shoulder feels stuck out of place! Shoulder dislocations account for about half of all major joint dislocations in Australia. Thankfully, with effective early management and physiotherapy care at Erko Physio, most shoulder injuries such as dislocations can be treated without requiring surgery.

Many patients will see a physiotherapist or a doctor once suffering from a dislocated shoulder. This condition is by no means uncommon, and it is often sustained during physical activity. The shoulder is an amazing joint that gives us a large range of movement. The trade off unfortunately, is that the shoulder joint is much more unstable than other joints such as your hip, leaving it more prone to dislocation.A dislocated shoulder occurs when the humerus (upper arm bone) is forced out of its natural position within the glenoid labrum (shoulder joint), and this can cause sudden and acute pain. In some cases the joint may be able to relocate itself naturally; if it is unable to do so, you may find it difficult to move your arm and will need to visit a physiotherapist for treatment.

In this blog post, Erko Physio will be sharing some background on dislocated shoulders and filling you in on everything you need to know about condition management.

Causes of Dislocated Shoulder

Shoulder dislocation most commonly occurs during high speed activities/sports such as rugby, football and other activities involving the risk of bodily impact. 9 out of 10 first-time shoulder dislocations result from forceful collisions, falling on an outstretched arm, or a sudden wrenching movement.  Sudden blows to the shoulder (such as during a tackle) can easily dislocate the joint, and this type of shoulder dislocation is referred to as a traumatic shoulder dislocation.

Shoulder dislocation can also occur due to an underlying shoulder condition or genetic disposition. No two people are built the same, and those who have looser ligaments may experience a dislocated shoulder out of the blue. This can result in multi-directional instability, and you may experience frequent dislocations.

It is also important not to overstress the shoulder joint through repetitive actions or exercise, as this places extra stress on your rotator cuff muscles, making it harder to maintain shoulder stability.


How do I know if I have a Dislocated Shoulder?

The signs of a dislocated shoulder are obvious, as there will be a clearly visible deformity around the shoulder. You likely would have felt the shoulder pop out of the joint, and you should arrange an appointment with us as soon as possible to confirm the diagnosis. In most cases we will be able to confirm the diagnosis by sight, but in some cases we may refer you for X-rays or MRI to better understand your condition.


Warning Signs of Shoulder Instability

It is important to be aware of the early warning signs which may predispose you to shoulder dislocation.

  • Persistent shoulder pain
  • Recurrent shoulder dislocation (even if shoulder eventually self-relocates)
  • Loose sensation around the shoulder or slipping in/out of the joint
  • Numb sensation and arm weakness

Treatment of Dislocated Shoulders at Erko Physio

Treatment of shoulder dislocations involves tailored exercise programs and the use of a shoulder sling, which will help to support your shoulder by restricting movement.

Treatment may involve:

  • Motion Exercises
  • Muscle Strengthening and stabilisation Exercises (particularly for rotator cuff muscles and shoulder blade stabilisers)
  • Proprioception shoulder retraining
  • Hands on therapy such as soft and deep tissue massage to loosen muscles in spasm
  • Acupuncture and dry needling
  • De-loading Taping Techniques and sports specific taping
  • Ice to reduce pain/swelling
  • Anti-inflammatory medications


Your physiotherapist will create a tailored program to suit your needs and ability. Our aim is to help relieve pain and inflammation, improve muscle strength and ultimately restore normal joint range of motion so that you can get back to your everyday life.

Patients under 25 have a high risk of recurrent dislocation, with statistics showing a rate of around 80%. To reduce your risk of experiencing another dislocation, we strongly advise allowing at least 8 weeks for your injury to heal before participating in strenuous physical activity. We will closely monitor your condition and advise accordingly, as some individuals may need more time.


Shoulder Strengthening

Many sports require repetitive overhead motion, so if you are a keen tennis player, swimmer, cricketer or volleyballer you may wish to consult with our physiotherapists about safe methods which will help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and reduce your risk of experiencing a dislocated shoulder.

Those with naturally loose ligaments will also benefit from a shoulder stabilisation strengthening program, and the team at Erko Physio would love to assist you with this.


Schedule an Appointment with Erko Physio Today

If you believe you may have dislocated your shoulder or have any other concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We’ve seen countless cases of shoulder dislocation since our practice was established in 2009. Relying upon our wealth of practical experience and evidence based research, we will have you back to normal as quickly as possible.

Schedule an appointment with one of our physiotherapists today. We look forward to welcoming you to our practice.