The shoulder’s anatomy provides the ability for it to turn and move in numerous directions. While this is an advantage, it makes the shoulder an easy joint to dislocate forward, backward or downward. A dislocated shoulder occurs when the ball (humerus head) and socket (glenoid) become separated during a traumatic event or from overuse. A shoulder dislocation is one of the most common causes of shoulder instability. Instability of the shoulder occurs when the surrounding soft structures of the joint no longer keep the ball and socket in the correct position. Geo area orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist, Dr. Jonathan Ticker is extremely experienced at diagnosing and treating this common shoulder condition and returning patients to the activities they love.

A dislocated shoulder can be a partial dislocation (subluxation) or a complete dislocation. Both types of injuries lead to shoulder instability, pain and weakness. Patients who have experienced a past shoulder dislocation are at a higher risk of recurrent dislocations. This is because the shoulder ligaments holding the ball and socket in place are weakened or displaced after the first injury. Young, active individuals who have experienced a dislocated shoulder due to a traumatic event run the highest risk of future dislocations.

Athletes, especially those involved in overhead sports, are prone to shoulder dislocations because of the repetitive overhead motions that cause wear and tear to the soft structures that support and secure the shoulder joint. Acute, traumatic events are also common causes of a dislocated shoulder, including a direct impact during sports, or from a work injury or an automobile accident.

Shoulder Instability as a Dislocated Shoulder Symptom

Shoulder instability often occurs after a dislocated shoulder because the surrounding soft structures have become stretched or torn. Other common symptoms of a shoulder dislocation include pain, swelling, weakness, numbness and bruising.

Diagnosis of a Dislocated Shoulder and Shoulder Instability

A dislocated shoulder is quite easy to diagnose because the ball and socket are no longer in the correct position. Many patients display a visual deformity of the shoulder joint when they first visit Dr. Ticker if the shoulder is not reduced. Prompt medical care should be sought if a shoulder dislocation occurs. Emergent care focuses on returning the joint to its proper position, known as reduction. After the injured shoulder is reduced, Dr. Ticker will perform a thorough physical examination, a series of x-rays and an MRI scan to determine the amount of joint damage and degree of shoulder instability.

Treatment of Shoulder Instability and a Dislocated Shoulder


Dr. Ticker commonly prescribes a non-operative treatment plan if the soft tissue damage and shoulder instability are minimal. A combination of immobilization in a sling, rest and ice are typically utilized along with a detailed physical therapy and rehabilitation program. Physical therapy focuses on restoring the affected joint’s range of motion and strengthening the surrounding muscles to alleviate instability.


A surgical procedure may be recommended if physical therapy and conservative measures do not alleviate shoulder instability or if recurrent shoulder dislocations occur. Arthroscopic repair may be advised after a first-time dislocation, in certain circumstances. The overall goal of surgery is to repair and tighten the injured ligament in a minimally invasive approach. Surgical repair is more common in the young, active population so a full return to sports activities can be achieved.

For additional resources on shoulder instability, or for more information on shoulder dislocation treatment, please contact geo area shoulder specialist Dr. Jonathan Ticker.