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Dislocated Shoulder/Shoulder Instability Specialist

Orthopedic Specialists -  - Orthopedic Surgeon

Orthopedic Specialists

Orthopedic Surgeons located in Palm Harbor, FL

Dislocated Shoulder and Shoulder Instability Q and A

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What is a dislocated shoulder?

The shoulder joint is composed of the upper arm bone (humerus) that rests in a shallow socket bone (glenoid). A sudden blow from a fall or impact can jolt the humeral head from the socket. People who ski, participate in gymnastics, volleyball, or contact sports are vulnerable to dislocation, as are young athletes and motor vehicle accident victims. Some people with naturally loose ligaments can dislocate a shoulder without great force.

Why is the shoulder prone to dislocating? 

The shoulder’s design affords it a wide range of motion but also makes it vulnerable to separation in certain circumstances. A dislocation can be partial or complete.

How is dislocated shoulder related to shoulder instability?

Once a shoulder has been dislocated, it is likely to happen again because the supportive ligaments, tendons, and cartilage rim around the glenoid are usually injured, as well. If a shoulder slips out of place a second time, it can create a condition known as shoulder instability or recurrent shoulder dislocation. The risk increases with every occurrence.

What are other causes of shoulder instability?

Instability can occur without dislocation. Some people have naturally loose shoulder ligaments and might call themselves “double-jointed.” For others, repeated strain, particularly overhead motions from work or sport, can loosen shoulder ligaments.

How is shoulder instability diagnosed?

Our orthopedic doctor will thoroughly examine your shoulder to make the proper diagnosis. He or she will order imaging tests, such as an x-ray, MRI, or arthrogram (dye contrast imaging), to get a clear picture of the bones and soft tissues.

How is shoulder dislocation treated?

Many shoulder dislocations will go back into place spontaneously after the dislocation but they sometimes require a manual reduction to put the shoulder back in place in an emergency room.


  • Physical therapy and home exercises are the common first line of treatment
  • Recurrent dislocations usually require surgery
  • Surgery may also be indicated in more severe injuries 


How is shoulder instability treated?

After a careful evaluation, our doctor may recommend starting treatment with nonsurgical options. These are likely to include: 

  • Avoiding activities that make symptoms worse
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication, like aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Physical therapy, which we provide at our office for your convenience
  • Prescribed at-home exercises


Surgery may be considered to keep the shoulder positioned in the socket, to create greater stability, or to repair a torn ligament. 

Whether you’ve experienced a shoulder dislocation or have shoulder instability, you can feel confident that our board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic doctors can diagnose and treat it. Shoulder procedures are a particular area of expertise for Orthopedic Specialists. Call or schedule a consultation online today.

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