shoulder dislocation

A shoulder dislocation occurs when the top of the upper arm bone moves out of the shoulder joint socket. Because the shoulder joint is so mobile, it can be very easy to dislocate the bone from the socket. The top of the upper arm bone (humerus) can partially or completely come out of the socket (glenoid).

  • Partial: The bone moved partially out of the shoulder joint socket and returned on its own.
  • Total: The bone moved completely out of the shoulder joint socket and had to be returned to its proper position another person.

Shoulder dislocations can occur from falls, car accidents, or strong contact during sports. Those with a dislocated shoulder can experience swelling, numbness, weakness, bruising, pain, instability, and even muscle spasms. 

Shoulder Dislocation Care

If you are suffering from the pain of a dislocated shoulder, you need an orthopedic specialist who understands your needs. The team of orthopedic surgeons  at Georgetown University Hospital offers the most specialized expertise in shoulder care of any hospital in the region. Every orthopedic surgeon you see here is fellowship trained in shoulder surgery and dedicated entirely to treating shoulder conditions.

Your orthopedic surgeon will spend time with you to determine the cause of your shoulder dislocation and make sure you fully understand your condition and treatment options. We specialize in the most advanced procedures to help you regain strength and range of motion after experiencing a shoulder dislocation.   Our goal is to heal your injury and return you to your normal level of activity free of pain. 

Shoulder Dislocation Diagnosis

The orthopedists at Georgetown are highly skilled in diagnosing shoulder dislocations. Our initial exam will serve to rule out any other problems, like a shoulder fracture, and generally includes:

  • Taking your medical history – This includes asking questions about how the injury occurred, and whether you have ever dislocated your shoulder in the past. It can also include questions about whether you have other medical problems, and if you take any medications.
  • Physical exam – The orthopedist will examine your shoulder and arm to evaluate your pain and sensitivity, strength, range of motion.
  • Imaging tests – Your orthopedist may want to examine the bones and joints themselves using a variety of imaging techniques, including:
    • X-ray, which can show the dislocation and also help determine if you have any broken bones
    • MRI, which uses powerful magnets and computer technology to create a picture of your muscles, tissues, and nerves to show if you have any tissue damage.
  • Electromyography – This procedure measures electrical activity in your muscles and can help show if you have any nerve damage.

Shoulder Dislocation Treatment 

To treat a dislocated shoulder, a physician uses a process called closed reduction that places the upper arm back into the socket. Pain relief is almost immediate. Physicians typically recommend that, after treatment, the shoulder be immobilized in a sling or other device for a few weeks. 

For patients with recurrent dislocations, surgery is often recommended to help keep the shoulder in place. Learn more about shoulder dislocation surgery at MedStar Georgetown.


Make an Appointment

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a shoulder specialist, call our scheduling line. 

Phone: 202-295-0549

Shoulder Specialist

brent wiesel
Brent B. Wiesel, MD