Shoulder Subluxation

What is a shoulder subluxation?

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. A shoulder subluxation means that the ball of your upper arm bone slips partly out of the shoulder socket for a short time.

What is the cause?

A shoulder subluxation can be caused by:

  • A fall onto your outstretched arm.
  • A direct blow to your shoulder.
  • Having your arm forced into an awkward position

If you have had a previous injury or if you were born with shoulder ligaments that are loose, you may sublux your shoulder doing simple activities like throwing or putting on a jacket. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • The feeling that your shoulder is loose or has gone “in and out of joint”
  • Pain
  • Weakness or numbness in your shoulder or arm

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You will have X-rays.

How is it treated?

You will need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until the injury has healed. You may need to wear a sling or shoulder immobilizer. The sling or immobilizer will keep you from lifting your arm away from your chest and help the ligaments heal.

Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises and other types of physical therapy to help you heal.

If your shoulder continues to sublux and cause pain and other symptoms, you may need surgery to correct the joint looseness.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the injured area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take these medicines for more than 10 days.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age.
    • Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Unless recommended by your provider, don’t take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. To make sure you don’t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.
  • Do the exercises recommended by your healthcare provider.

Ask your provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-21
Last reviewed: 2014-09-25
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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