If you’ve dislocated your shoulder, you may wonder when life can get back to normal. It’s tempting to rush back into physical activity as soon as you feel better. Going back too soon, however, can keep you sidelined longer.
The regenerative medicine experts at Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists in Arlington, Virginia, specialize in treating sports injuries of all kinds—including dislocations. Our team helps athletes and weekend warriors recover and get back in the game safely.
Keep reading to learn what you can expect as you recover from a shoulder dislocation.
What do I need to know about shoulder dislocations?
Your shoulder is one of the most mobile joints you have. It’s naturally unstable so you can move freely.
This mobility also means it’s one of the most frequently dislocated joints. About 50% of all dislocations are shoulder dislocations. The rest occur in one of the 300+ other joints you have.
Shoulder dislocations result when your upper arm bone comes out of the shoulder socket. It takes a powerful force or rotation to move your bones out of place.
That’s why this injury usually happens during contact sports and activities with a high fall risk, like gymnastics or skateboarding. You can also dislocate your shoulder in a non-sports-related fall or injury.
Symptoms of a shoulder dislocation include:
- Your shoulder is visibly out of joint
- You have severe pain in your shoulder or arm
- You can’t move your shoulder
- You have shoulder/arm swelling and/or bruising
- You have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your neck or arm
- You’re experiencing muscle spasms in your shoulder area
All shoulder dislocations MUST be evaluated and treated by a trained medical professional. DO NOT ATTEMPT MOVING THE SHOULDER BACK IN PLACE ON YOUR OWN. This can cause severe damage to the joint and surrounding tissues.
Most treatments involve nonsurgical therapies. These may include treatments like rest, using a sling or brace, and physical therapy. Sometimes surgery is necessary to stabilize or repair the joint.
How long will it take for me to recover after a dislocation?
A dislocated shoulder keeps you’re sidelined from physical activity as you heal. Everyone is different. This means there’s no set rule for how long it takes to recover from a shoulder dislocation.
Generally speaking, if you have a first-time shoulder dislocation, you can usually return to physical activity around 6 weeks after the injury. Younger people often need more recovery time to prevent re-injury.
Some dislocations involve additional complications, like:
- Torn muscles, tendons, or ligaments
- Nerve damage
- Blood vessel damage
If you have any complications, it takes longer to heal. If you need surgery to treat your dislocation, you could need up to 6 months to fully recover.
How can I tell I've recovered from a shoulder dislocation?
Always get the approval of your doctor before returning to physical activity. You might end up with another dislocation or other complications if you try to go back too soon.
Your Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists provider understands your case. This means they can give you a personalized timeline that works to keep you healthy and active longer.
Before getting cleared, expect a physical exam and discussion with your provider about your symptoms. Your provider also looks at the following before clearing you for physical activity:
- Do you have full range of shoulder motion?
- Do you have full shoulder strength?
- Can you perform all physical actions required by your sport/activity?
- Are you pain free during your daily activities?
Ready to learn more about recovering from a shoulder dislocation? Schedule an appointment over the phone or online at Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists in Northern Virginia.