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Signs and Symptoms of an Anterior Dislocated Shoulder

Updated on May 19, 2013

Ouch!! A dislocated shoulder HURTS!!

The signs and symptoms of a dislocated shoulder are not always immediately clear. When I dislocated my shoulder recently (an anterior shoulder dislocation) I originally thought I had just pulled a muscle in my shoulder.

One would think that you would have to fall or do something really bad to dislocate your shoulder, right?

Wrong! A simple thing such as lifting my grandson out of his car seat dislocated my shoulder 6 weeks ago and it hurt. I MEAN HURT!

If you are here because you are wondering if you dislocated your shoulder, please read on. You may get some idea of what happened to your shoulder (or maybe some ideas of what NOT to do if you have dislocated your shoulder) There are also tips on recovery from a dislocated shoulder - plus a list of the signs and symptoms of an anterior dislocated shoulder.

A severely dislocated shoulder

X-ray of a severely dislocated shoulder.
X-ray of a severely dislocated shoulder. | Source

It doesn't take much sometimes

Like I said, I apparently dislocated my shoulder taking my grandson out of his car-seat. I say apparently because there was no time over the weekend that I could remember doing anything strenuous except for lifting him. I had many errands to do that day, my grandson was in tow and I took him in and out of my ford explorer at least 5-6 times that day ( he weighs about 30 pounds or so) The next morning my shoulder hurt, and when I moved to get up I heard a strange little pop and noise, but nothing significant. I had pain and could not raise my arm very far - but I thought I had just pulled a shoulder muscle so I went on with my day. Later on in the day I participated in a missing persons flyer campaign for my missing co-worker Michelle Le, so I used my one good arm to put up fliers for a few hours around Kaiser Hospital, where I work as a baby photographer.

The Symptoms of an Anterior Dislocated Shoulder

Well silly me, I just don't seem to know when to stop sometimes! By that evening the pain in my shoulder was getting worse. In fact, it was so bad that I could not sleep. I tossed and turned and the pain got worse and worse as the hours passed. I didn't want to wake up my husband so I watched the hours crawl by until it was daylight. That was one of the LONGEST nights of my life! Finally not able to take it anymore, I asked him to get up when dawn broke and take me to the emergency room. By this time the pain was intolerable - I could not move my arm at all. It was throbbing, I felt sick and I could not get comfotable no matter how I laid or tried to rest my arm or shoulder.

The ER Dr. took X-rays, and I was diagnosed with a partially dislocated shoulder (anterior). I was kind of shocked because I have NEVER broke or dislocated anything in my entire life, but I kind of had a feeling it was worse than just a pulled muscle by now.

Dislocated Shoulder Symptoms

The following are symptoms of an anterior dislocated shoulder:

  • Severe one-sided shoulder pain
  • Increased pain with movement
  • Shoulder is visibly deformed/out of place
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Shoulder tenderness
  • Arm weakness
  • Arm numbness
  • Lack of mobility

Treatment for a Dislocated Shoulder

The next thing the Drs. did in the ER was to use a technique called "reduction" to fix my shoulder (basically they manually shoved my shoulder back in it's socket) As horrible as that sounds, the pain of the dislocated shoulder was far worse than the pain of putting my shoulder back into place. Before the Dr. "reduced" my shoulder I was offered morphine, which I politely declined (umm yeah.... I don't recommend this, but if you are stubborn like me you can do this without pain killers) So with a few precise movements the my shoulder back in place. Unfortunately it slipped out OF THE SOCKET again when I had flinched, so they had to do it again (At least the second time around I knew what to expect)

AHHH...Blessed blessed relief!! Instant relief!! The intense pain I had been feeling was gone.

Dislocated Shoulder Poll

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Recovery from a Dislocated Shoulder

Fortunately the intense shoulder pain was gone, but I still could not raise my arm - and my mobility was severely limited. Along with an anterior dislocated shoulder you usually do have some other damage to the muscles, tendons or nerves around the affected shoulder ( which makes sense)

"Significant damage occurs to the joint when the shoulder is dislocated. The labrum and joint capsule have to tear, and there may be associated injuries to the rotator cuff. These are the structures that lend stability to the shoulder joint and since they are injured, the shoulder is at great risk to dislocate again"

It's been about 7 weeks now and I have an appt,.with an orthopedic specialist this week to find out what the next steps are. Hopefully I have not torn my rotator cuff, or anything else requiring surgery, because I want to go back to work ( I miss my babies!!) Total recovery from a shoulder dislocation usually takes 12-16 weeks, so I figure I am right about in the middle there.

My mobility has gotten better, I can sleep at night and I have learned to use my left arm more so I don't put as much strain on my affected shoulder. I wore an arm sling for the first few weeks, but I can now get by with just resting my arm from time to time.

If you have any questions about a possible dislocated shoulder, or are recovering from one, feel free to comment and/or shoot me some questions. I'm not a Dr. by any means but may have some advice for you on the recovery process, and I have a good cyber shoulder to lean on. Most of all - it does get better! It just takes time and lots of changes on how you use your shoulder. And if you are like me, a go-getter, you will need to change some of those go-getting habits. I've been out of work for a few weeks now but it's been worth it to let my shoulder heal properly. Understanding the signs and symptoms of an anterior dislocated shoulder is critical to knowing how to treat your injury, so make sure if you have extreme shoulder pain to have it checked out by a doctor. The signs of an anterior dislocated shoulder are usually extreme pain, so even if you didn't do anything extreme to hurt your shoulder (like me), it still could be a dislocated shoulder. An X-Ray can confirm this.

(Dorsi Diaz is a freelance writer on the internet and at HubPages. She is also an artist and photographer)


Submit a Comment

  • Dorsi profile image

    Dorsi Diaz 6 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    Thanks hello,hello for stopping by!

    Karen) TY and I hope that you don't either!

  • Karen N profile image

    Karen N 6 years ago from United States

    Hopefully that's something I won't ever have to experience, but very helpful info for anyone who needs it.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

    Wel written hub and I am sure it must have been painful.

  • Dorsi profile image

    Dorsi Diaz 6 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    I'm sorry to hear that Estella. Arthritis can be so very painful. Thank you for coming by and reading)