Try these steps to help ease discomfort and encourage healing after being treated for a dislocated shoulder:
- Rest your shoulder. Don't repeat the specific action that caused your shoulder to dislocate, and try to avoid painful movements. Limit heavy lifting or overhead activity until your shoulder feels better.
Apply ice then heat. Putting ice on your shoulder helps reduce inflammation and pain. Use a cold pack, a bag of frozen vegetables or a towel filled with ice cubes for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Do this every couple of hours the first day or two.
After two or three days, when the pain and inflammation have improved, hot packs or a heating pad may help relax tight and sore muscles. Limit heat applications to 20 minutes at a time.
- Take pain relievers. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), may help relieve pain. Follow label directions and stop taking the drugs when the pain improves.
- Maintain the range of motion of your shoulder. After one or two days, do some gentle exercises as directed by your doctor or physical therapist to help maintain your shoulder's range of motion. Inactivity can cause stiff joints. In addition, favoring your shoulder for a long period can lead to frozen shoulder, a condition in which your shoulder becomes so stiff you can barely move it.
Once your injury heals and you have good range of motion in your shoulder, continue exercising. Daily shoulder stretches and a shoulder-strengthening and stability program can help prevent a recurrence of dislocation. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help you plan an appropriate exercise routine.
Aug. 16, 2014
- Sherman SC, et al. Shoulder dislocation and reduction. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 30, 2014.
- Dislocated shoulder. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00035. Accessed June 30, 2014.
- Questions and answers about shoulder problems. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Shoulder_Problems/default.asp. Accessed June 30, 2014.
- Traumatic shoulder dislocation. American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. http://www.sportsmed.org/Patient/Sports_Tips/AOSSM_Sports_Tips_Sheets/. Accessed June 30, 2014.
- Zacchilli MA, et al. Epidemiology of shoulder dislocations presenting to emergency departments in the United States. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 2010;92:542.
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