What Complications Can Be Caused by a Dislocated Shoulder?

Dec 5, 2022

Dislocated-Shoulder-Symptoms-and-TreatmentThe joints in your body allow for all kinds of movement, and your shoulder joint has the widest range of motion. In fact, the shoulder joints allow you to raise, rotate, and move your arm in a circular motion. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, which allows for a wide range of movement in multiple directions. However, a sudden injury or another issue can lead to a shoulder dislocation. If you need dislocated shoulder treatment, you want to work with a Conyers specialist near you who can help you avoid complications and recover safely and swiftly.

Common Causes of a Dislocated Shoulder

Damage to one of the bones, the surrounding ligaments, or the cartilage lining can all result in a dislocated shoulder. The following are examples of common causes of a dislocated shoulder.

Car Accident Injury

If you were in a car accident, the force of impact can lead to car accident injuries like a dislocated shoulder. A sudden blow to the shoulder or a sudden, forceful movement of the arm can occur with this type of collision. A direct impact to the shoulder may occur if part of the vehicle, like the steering wheel or dashboard, hits the shoulder joint suddenly. The seatbelt can also cause a shoulder dislocation if it tightens too much across the shoulder, and the accident causes your upper body to jostle around violently. The strain against the seatbelt in this situation can result in a car accident injury like a shoulder dislocation.

Sports Injury

Any sport that involves contact or overhead arm movements can result in a shoulder dislocation. Football players can sustain a shoulder dislocation while blocking, tackling, or being tackled. A wrestler who gets thrown or falls onto their shoulder could suffer a shoulder dislocation. Other sports where a dislocated shoulder injury can occur include basketball, gymnastics, tennis, swimming, and weightlifting.

Slip & Fall

A slip-and-fall accident can happen when you least expect it. Perhaps you trip walking down a flight of stairs or slip on a wet floor in the workplace. A sudden fall to the ground can result in a serious injury. You may put your arms outstretched to help catch yourself, but the sudden force when your hands hit the ground can put undue stress on your arms. Falling to the ground on your side or back could also result in an injury like a dislocated shoulder.

Improper Lifting

It is important for anyone who will be doing any heavy lifting to use proper technique and warm up when necessary. Improper lifting can occur while weightlifting, with certain jobs and occupations, or even while carrying something heavy in your home. No matter the context, improper lifting can put too much strain on the shoulder joint and increase the risk of dislocation.

Joint Instability

Several factors can contribute to shoulder joint instability, including previous injuries, weakness in muscles that support the shoulder joint, and certain health conditions. Some people have a condition known as hypermobility, where they have excessive flexibility in certain joints, including the shoulder. Age, obesity, and conditions like arthritis can also increase the risk of joint instability.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and causes inflammation of the joints. This type of condition occurs with age due to wear and tear on various joints in the body, which can include the shoulders. The tissues that support the shoulder joints can become damaged, leading to instability and a greater risk of shoulder dislocation.

Symptoms of a Shoulder Dislocation

The most obvious symptom of a shoulder injury is sudden and severe pain. Some people report hearing a tearing or popping sensation when the shoulder dislocation occurred. Other symptoms that may occur include swelling and bruising around the shoulder joint and difficulty moving your arm or shoulder. In fact, many people who suffer a shoulder dislocation cannot raise their arm at all, or not without significant pain and discomfort. You may also experience numbness or tingling in your arm or hand. If you suffer a shoulder injury, you may be able to tell if it’s a shoulder dislocation if there is a visibly deformed or out-of-place shoulder.

3 Types of Shoulder Dislocations

Types of Shoulder DislocationsA ball and socket joint is made up of two bones: one bone has a rounded end, known as the ball, which fits into a cuplike socket on the other bone. The upper arm bone, called the humerus, has a round head that fits into the shallow socket of the shoulder blade, called the scapula. A capsule of ligaments surrounds the ball and socket joint to help stabilize the joint and keep the ball in place within the socket. The three types of shoulder dislocations are anterior, posterior, and inferior.

Anterior Dislocation

An anterior dislocation is the most common type of shoulder dislocation, and it occurs when the upper arm bone is displaced forward and out of the shoulder blade. An anterior dislocation can show more obvious signs of injury because of the visible deformity along the front of the shoulder.

Posterior Dislocation

A posterior dislocation is the opposite type of shoulder dislocation and occurs when the humerus is displaced backward and out of the scapula. This type of dislocation is less common than an anterior dislocation and can be more difficult to detect because a deformity is not always visible.

Inferior Dislocation

An inferior dislocation occurs when the upper arm bone is displaced downward and out of the shoulder blade. This type of dislocation is also less common. Regardless of what type of shoulder dislocation you have, you will need to seek medical attention as soon as possible for proper treatment and a full recovery.

6 Complications from a Dislocated Shoulder

A dislocated shoulder can cause various complications, some of which can be quite serious. Here are six examples of complications that can occur from a dislocated shoulder.

Nerve Damage

A dislocated shoulder can cause damage to the nerves in and around the shoulder joint. The nerves in this area send signals from the brain to a variety of places, including the arms and hands. Damage to nerves can cause tingling, numbness, and weakness in the area.

Blood Vessel Damage

Damage to the blood vessels may also occur with a shoulder dislocation. The blood vessels in and around the shoulder joint help supply blood to the area. If one or more of these vessels becomes pinched, irritated, or otherwise damaged, this could result in restricted blood flow to the area.


A shoulder dislocation can sometimes also cause a broken bone or fracture to occur. A shoulder dislocation can also occur along with a broken bone, depending on the cause and severity of the injury.


Shoulder dislocations can also lead to scarring in and around the joint. An injury or health condition can damage the surfaces and tissues that support the shoulder joint, leading to a buildup of scar tissue in the area. Scarring can lead to a reduced range of motion in the affected shoulder.

Chronic Instability

If you suffer more than one shoulder dislocation, you could be at greater risk for chronic instability in the shoulder joint. Chronic instability in this type of joint means that the ball can more easily slip out of the socket than normal.

Avascular Necrosis

Avascular necrosis is a serious complication that can occur when the blood supply to the head of the upper arm bone is disrupted, resulting in the death of bone tissue. While avascular necrosis is a rare complication of a dislocated shoulder, it can lead to long-term disability, which is why you want to get a shoulder dislocation looked at by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Treating a Dislocated Shoulder

Treating a Dislocated ShoulderThe treatment for a dislocated shoulder typically involves putting the bone back in place, known as a reduction. The joint then needs to be stabilized and supported during the healing process. There are a variety of methods for reducing a dislocated shoulder and necessary treatments for proper healing.

Closed Reduction

A closed reduction is the most common method for reducing a dislocated shoulder. Your doctor will manually manipulate the joint back into place without making any incisions. They may use pain medication or sedation to help you relax and reduce your discomfort during the procedure.

Open Reduction

In some cases, a closed reduction may not be possible or may not be enough to adequately stabilize the joint. In that case, an open reduction may be necessary. An open reduction involves making an incision in the shoulder and surgically repositioning the joint.


Once the joint has been reduced and stabilized, your doctor will often require you to use a sling, splint, or other devices to keep the arm in place. A sling or other method will be necessary to prevent movement while the joint heals.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is typically recommended after a shoulder dislocation to help restore strength, range of motion, and healthy functioning in the shoulder.

Visit AICA Orthopedics in Conyers and meet with our team of doctors who can diagnose, treat, and rehab your shoulder after a dislocation.


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