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Shoulder Dislocation / Instability

What is Shoulder Dislocation / Shoulder Instability?

The shoulder (gleno-humeral joint) is a ball and socket joint and is the most mobile joint in the body. It is largely dependent on its surrounding soft tissues to hold it in place.  When the ball displaces out of the socket completely, this is called a dislocation. When the ball moves in the socket beyond its normal capacity, but doesn’t leave the socket, this is called shoulder instability. Dislocations tend to occur due to a trauma or maneuver that pushes the arm beyond its normal range of motion.

How long will it last?

If a true dislocation has occurred it will mean tissues of the shoulder have been torn or damaged and this may involve the ball (humeral head), the socket (the glenoid or the cartilage in the socket called the labrum), the ligaments or your rotator cuff. In a young person who wants to perform overhead or contact sports there is a high chance it will dislocate again and surgery may be considered. In an adult, there is less of a chance of re-dislocation and rehabilitation through Physiotherapy will be beneficial to avoid surgery.


The symptoms of shoulder dislocation or ongoing shoulder instability are:

  • A sudden pop. The shoulder may relocate by itself and you feel another pop.
  • A sudden weakness in the arm or a ‘dead arm’. Pins and needles may also follow.
  • Apprehension with twisting your shoulder and fear that it may ‘pop’ out.
  • Weakness / pain with throwing.

Suggestions for managing Shoulder Dislocation and Shoulder Instability

  • If you are unsure if your shoulder is still dislocated contact us during business hours for advice and to make an appointment or call our after hours emergency number for instructions and immediate advice.
  • Taping from your Physiotherapist or the use of a sling short term to improve your shoulder posture in the early stage and avoid re-dislocating.
  • Gentle exercises to strengthen the scapula (shoulder blade) muscles can commence after 3 days and gradually improving the strength of your rotator cuff muscles should commence early to avoid weakness.
  • If you have been injured at workor in sport, our practitioners have approved conditioning programs for your shoulder dislocation that will get you back on track sooner with your tailored exercise plan for you. Your Physiotherapist may also recommend Massage Therapy or Acupuncture to assist in reducing pain and improving movement
  • Your practitioner may refer you to a Sports Physician for further investigations if your shoulder instability does not respond in our suggested time frames. Sometimes surgery is necessary for a functional recovery.
  • Resting your shoulder from all movements for 4-6 weeks is not recommended.

Professional treatment options

Contact us now for immediate advice regarding Shoulder Dislocation or Shoulder Instability.