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Shoulder Dislocation

There is no doubt that dislocating a joint is a painful experience. Whether from a nasty fall, a car accident, or during a game of rugby, the shoulder is easy to dislocate, as it is a very mobile joint. Recovery can take months and after you have done it once, you are more susceptible to it happening again. In this blog, we look at common causes of a dislocated shoulder, and how physiotherapy may help with your recovery.

Anatomy of the joint

The shoulder is a complex joint that allows for a wide range of motion. It is a ball and socket joint formed where the humerus fits into the shoulder blade/scapula. Think about all the ways that you can move your arms: up, down, side to side, making circles every which way. The complex shoulder joint makes all of this possible.

What is a dislocated shoulder?

A dislocated shoulder is when the head of the humerus bone pops out of the shoulder socket (ouch!). It can either be partially or completely dislocated depending on whether the bone is all the way out of the socket (double ouch!).

What causes a dislocated shoulder?

Dislocation is generally caused by a sudden blow to your shoulder. It’s a common sports injury, particular in contact sports such as rugby. Car accidents and falls are also common causes.


It will usually be fairly obvious if you have dislocated your shoulder because you will not be able to move your arm without being in a lot of pain, and your shoulder will look square instead of round. You may also experience swelling, numbness, weakness and bruising.

If you suspect a dislocation, you should seek immediate medical treatment from your doctor or a hospital where you will likely be examined and sent for an X-ray to confirm the dislocation. It is important to have a doctor treat you and put your shoulder back in place to ensure that you don’t damage tissues, nerves and blood vessels.

Can physiotherapy help recovery?

So, you’ve sought medical treatment and had your shoulder examined and put back into place by a doctor, now what? Once the pain and swelling subsides and the doctor has given the all-clear, rehabilitation can commence.

Physical therapy is an important part of recovering from your injury. It will help to restore the normal range of motion in your joint, stabilise and strengthen the surrounding muscles, and prevent the injury from reoccurring.

We work with you to come up with an appropriate treatment plan to help you regain strength and restore movement as quickly and safely as possible. In the initial stages, you may feel aches and discomfort as you recover. We can recommend stretches and exercises to ease your discomfort and promote recovery. We can also provide advice on how to manage your injury at home.

Preventing the injury from reoccurring

As your condition improves, we will change up the program to focus on strengthening and stabilising the joint and surrounding muscles. This is an important part of rehabilitation and recovery and will help to reduce your risk of dislocation in the future. Some additional steps you can take to prevent the injury from reoccurring include:

  • Wearing padding and protective gear during sports

  • Taking care to avoid falls

  • Keeping up exercise to maintain strength and flexibility

  • Avoiding awkward arm positions.

If you are recovering from a dislocated shoulder and need help with rehabilitation, come and see us. Give us a call on 02 8960 8759 or email to make an appointment and we’ll get you back to your best!


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