Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Shoulder is Out of Joint Treatment

Treatment for a shoulder dislocation includes restoring the normal position of the bones. This process is called reduction. In most cases, a shoulder dislocation can be reduced in the emergency room using strong pain medications. In some cases, surgery may be required to achieve shoulder reduction. Additional treatment for shoulder dislocation includes rest, a sling, cold compresses, and pain medications. Physical therapy plays and important role in shoulder rehabilitation following a shoulder dislocation.

Treatment for a shoulder dislocation includes:

  • Reduction of the shoulder dislocation:
    • Manipulation of the shoulder to restore normal position of the bones
    • This is performed using strong pain medicines and other medicines that relax the muscles.
  • Rest:
    • Sling
    • Shoulder immobilizer
    • Long term immobilization in a sling can lead to frozen shoulder.
    • If you wear a shoulder sling for longer than a week make sure you perform shoulder range of motion exercises twice a day to avoid frozen shoulder.
  • Cold compresses
    • Apply for 20 minutes at a time, 2 to 3 times per day
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain
  • Narcotic pain medication:
    • For moderate to severe pain
    • For short term use only
  • Physical therapy for shoulder dislocation:
    • Important for maintaining range of motion and muscle strength
  • Occupational therapy
  • Surgery for shoulder dislocation
    • May be required if shoulder cannot be reduced
    • May be required for those with recurrent shoulder dislocation

Shoulder is Out of Joint Questions For Doctor

The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of shoulder dislocation.

Questions to ask before treatment:

  • What are my treatment options?
    • Will I need surgery?
  • What are the risks associated with treatment?
  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?
    • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • What are the complications I should watch for?
  • How long will I be on medication?
  • What are the potential side effects of my medication?
  • Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
  • Should I take my medication with food?

Questions to ask after treatment:
  • Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
  • When can I resume my normal activities?
  • When can I return to work?
  • Do I need a special exercise program?
  • Will I need physical therapy?
  • Will I need occupational therapy?
  • What else can I do to reduce my risk for having a shoulder dislocation again?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
  • What local support and other resources are available?

Shoulder is Out of Joint Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat a shoulder dislocation:

Continue to Shoulder is Out of Joint Home Care

Last Updated: Jun 15, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Shoulder is Out of Joint References
  1. Ameh V, Crane S. Nerve injury following shoulder dislocation: the emergency physician's perspective. Eur J Emerg Med. 2006 Aug;13(4):233-5. [16816589]
  2. Emond M, Le Sage N, Lavoie A, Rochette L. Clinical factors predicting fractures associated with an anterior shoulder dislocation. Acad Emerg Med. 2004 Aug;11(8):853-8. [15289192]
  3. Good CR, MacGillivray JD. Traumatic shoulder dislocation in the adolescent athlete: advances in surgical treatment. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2005 Feb;17(1):25-9. [15659959]
  4. Handoll HH, Almaiyah MA, Rangan A. Surgical versus non-surgical treatment for acute anterior shoulder dislocation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD004325. [14974064]
  5. Safran MR. Nerve injury about the shoulder in athletes, part 1: suprascapular nerve and axillary nerve. Am J Sports Med. 2004 Apr-May;32(3):803-19. [15090401]
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