What is shoulder dislocation?

Dislocated shoulder in children: Overview

When the upper arm comes out of the shoulder socket, it is called a dislocated shoulder.

After the doctor puts the shoulder back in place, the doctor may put your child's arm in a sling or brace to keep it from moving.

Exercise and physical therapy can help the shoulder strengthen and move normally again. You can help your child get better with rest and home treatment.

If the shoulder keeps coming out of place, talk to your doctor about surgery. It can prevent dislocations.

Your child may have had a sedative to help them relax. Your child may be unsteady after having sedation. It may take a few hours for the medicine's effects to wear off. Common side effects of sedation include nausea, vomiting, and feeling sleepy or cranky.

The doctor has checked your child carefully. But problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

What are the symptoms of a dislocated shoulder?

You could have pain, swelling, or numbness in your arm. You might have trouble moving your arm. You might notice that your arm hangs at a different angle or that your arm looks out of place at the shoulder.

How is a dislocated shoulder treated?

Your doctor will put your shoulder back into place. Your arm will be in a sling while it heals. You may have physical therapy to get back motion and strength in your shoulder. You might need surgery to repair tissue or nerve damage or if your shoulder keeps coming out of place.

How is a dislocated shoulder diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam. The doctor will also ask how you hurt your shoulder. You might be asked to describe your pain or other problems you have with your shoulder. You will likely have an X-ray to find out if your shoulder is out of place.

How can you care for your child who has a dislocated shoulder?

  • If your doctor put your child's arm in a sling or shoulder immobilizer, make sure your child wears it as directed.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your child's shoulder for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when your child is awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • You may use warm packs after the first 3 days for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. This can ease pain.
  • If your doctor gave your child exercises to do at home, help your child do them exactly as your doctor told you.
  • Do not let your child do anything that makes the pain worse.

What causes a dislocated shoulder?

A shoulder most often comes out of place because of an accident. For example, it could happen with a fall or a blow to the shoulder.

What is a dislocated shoulder?

When the upper arm bone comes out of the shoulder socket, it is called a dislocated shoulder. It can cause pain and swelling. And it can keep your shoulder from working right. Treatment can help prevent more shoulder damage and help your shoulder heal so it can move normally again.

Dislocated shoulder in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.
  • Your child is very sleepy and is hard to wake up.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child has new or worse pain.
  • Your child's hand or fingers are cool or pale or change color.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in the hand or fingers.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.