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How to Know You Have a Dislocated Shoulder

author image Julie Hampton
Julie Hampton has worked as a professional freelance writer since 1999 for various newspapers and websites including "The Florida Sun" and "Pensacola News Journal." She served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and nurse for over six years and recently worked as the Community Relations Director for a health center. Hampton studied journalism and communications at the University of West Florida.
How to Know You Have a Dislocated Shoulder
A dislocated shoulder is one of the most common sports injuries.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the body’s most flexible joint is the shoulder joint—making it prone to dislocations. When a shoulder is dislocated the upper arm bone pops out of the socket located in the shoulder blade, explains The shoulder can dislocated forward, backward, downward and partially or completely. Medical attention is necessary; however, full recovery takes only a few weeks, according to the clinic. Once a person suffers from a dislocated shoulder, additional dislocations are more likely in the future.

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Step 1

Inspect the shoulder to confirm an injury. Look for bruising, swelling or deformity to the shoulder region. The shoulder will no longer appear round and smooth; it will appear very different from the opposite shoulder. Muscle spasms may be seen as well as felt.

Step 2

Move your shoulder slightly, if possible. If you experience intense, sudden pain, you may have a dislocated shoulder. Immediately stop any movement to prevent further injury to the shoulder.

Step 3

Listen for “popping” sound when the bone comes out of the socket immediately after the injury. A sound may not always be present, even if the shoulder is dislocated. It may be difficult to initially tell if the shoulder is fractured or if a dislocation is present, according to

Step 4

Touch the injured area to identify any numbness. A pins and needles sensation may also take place due to a potentially dislocated shoulder. It's possible that there has been damage to nerves or blood vessels when numbness or loss of sensation is felt in the shoulder.

Step 5

Receive an x-ray of the shoulder to rule out a bone fracture. Discuss with your doctor what activities were occurring before symptoms began. Talk about any previous shoulder injuries to assist in a proper medical diagnosis. Allow magnetic resonance imaging or electromyography tests to determine the extent of the shoulder injury.

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