Gold Member Badge


  • You're all caught up!

Shoulder Subluxation Symptoms

Contributing Writer
I have experience writing short articles on a deadline for national publications, and I love to write. Feel free to request other writing samples if necessary.
Shoulder Subluxation Symptoms
A rear view of a man holding his shoulder as if in pain. Photo Credit: Staras/iStock/Getty Images

Because of its ball and socket formation, the shoulder joint is the most mobile of any joint in the body. That mobility also makes it the most unstable joint as well. The online orthopedic journal Maitrise Orthopédique explains that the bony incongruence of the joint—the failure of the shallow socket to fully cover the ball of the upper arm bone—forces the shoulder to depend on soft tissue to hold it in place. When the humerus, or upper arm, comes partially out of the shoulder socket beyond normal joint mobility, it's called a subluxation.

Video of the Day

Popping and Looseness

When a shoulder subluxes, the patient usually feels a popping as the ball joint pushes out of the socket then bursts back in. Sometimes the popping is audible. "Ramamurti's Orthopaedics in Primary Care" indicates that patients with subluxation may say that their shoulder feels like it's slipping or catching, or that their arm goes dead from time to time. Also, many patients express a feeling of looseness in their shoulder. According to the Sanders Clinic, patients may be especially reluctant to raise their arms overhead for fear that the shoulder will pop out.

Pain, Numbness and Weakness

When shoulder subluxation occurs, pain is centered directly in the shoulder joint. The motions that trigger the pain are partially dependent on the type of subluxation. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states that the majority of shoulder subluxations and dislocations are anterior, in which the shoulder slips forward. Throwing motions may exacerbate pain with an anterior subluxation. Pain leads to weakness, because the patient avoids uncomfortable motions. The shoulder itself will often feel numb, and numbness and tingling may travel down the arm.

Visual Symptoms

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, visual signs often accompany shoulder subluxations. Both bruising and swelling are common over the spot where the injury occurred. When compared to the healthy shoulder, the subluxed shoulder often appears less rounded. The sulcus test, which checks for shoulder instability, would likely show a positive result—dimpling below the bony protuberance, or protrusion, at the top of the shoulder, known as the acromium.

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
Lose Weight. Feel Great! Change your life with MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
  • Female
  • Male
ft. in.


Demand Media