Recurrent Shoulder Dislocation: Symptoms and Treatments


The shoulder is one of the most movable joints in the body, as this part rotates and turns in multiple directions to facilitate arm movement. However, due to the fact that it is so moveable, it is also a very vulnerable joint that can be dislocated upon force, sudden injury or even overuse. A shoulder dislocation refers to a condition in which the hymens head pops out of the socket. When this happens, patients require treatments that can sometimes include a shoulder dislocation surgery if dislocation is recurrent. Though this treatment is very effective, it may leave them vulnerable to repeated episodes of this type of injury.

Recurrent Shoulder Dislocation

Why Does Your Shoulder Keep Dislocating?

Patients can experience recurring shoulder dislocation because of the following reasons:

Severe First Injury:

When the shoulder head pops out of the socket, the socket bone is often injured, along with the ligaments around it. Moreover, the cartilage rim around the socket can also be tear and get damaged . This injury is known as a Bankart lesion. This can lead to recurrent shoulder dislocations.

Repetitive Strain:

Some patients who suffer from repetitive shoulder dislocations have never had that first severe injury. Such patients naturally have looser ligaments in their shoulders. These loose ligaments sometimes occur naturally and, at other times, they occur due to a repetitive overhead motion. These overhead motions can occur when you practise a lot of tennis, swimming and volleyball. These make the shoulder unstable and painful.

Multidirectional Instability:

This is a rare cause of recurrent dislocation. In this case, patients do not experience any traumatic injuries or have loosened ligaments. The shoulder can dislocate in multiple directions at any given time.

What are the Symptoms?

Some of the shoulder dislocation symptoms associated with recurrent or unstable shoulders include the following:

  • Shoulder dislocation pain
  • Repeated sensations of the shoulder giving out or popping
  • A sensation of looseness in the shoulder
  • Repeated dislocations

How Does the Doctor Examine the Problem?

Most patients start describing shoulder dislocation pain as it is a very distinct feeling. It helps doctors understand what the problem is, however, the doctor will start by first asking a few questions related to your medical history, even if the problem is quite apparent. This is because the treatments can vary on the basis of how recurrent the problem is. The doctor will then conduct a physical examination of your shoulder to see what direction it has dislocated in.

In order to confirm the diagnosis, the doctor can also order a few imaging tests. These include X-rays and MRI scans. These imaging tests can help the doctor see the finer tissue and ligaments that are around the socket and determine the treatment accordingly. Extensive damage may warrant a surgical approach, while mild damage warrants non-surgical treatment.

How is this Treated?

Since a recurrent shoulder dislocation is something that happens again and again, the doctor may devise a treatment plan that not only focusses on getting the shoulder bones back in place, but also prevents the dislocation from occurring as frequently as it does. This plan will also take into consideration the main causes behind the recurrent dislocation. Thus, shoulder dislocation treatment varies depending on the type of dislocations you have been suffering from.

Non-surgical Treatment Plans:

Non-surgical treatment plans can involve a combination of any of the following:

  • Activity modification: If your shoulder dislocation type is one that occurs due to repetitive activity, then the doctor may suggest some forms of activity modification. For sportsmen, this can often be quite challenging as they cannot simply give up the sport but must learn a new technique to be good at it.
  • NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammation Drugs (NSAID): If the patient suffers an intolerable amount of shoulder dislocation pain, then certain NSAIDs can be prescribed in order to bring relief from the same.
  • Physical therapy: As is the case with most bone-related injuries, there is a certain amount of physiotherapy that patients must go through in order to recover fully. The duration of the therapy can depend on how severe the injury is. During this treatment, you must perform various shoulder dislocation exercises in order to strengthen the joint and maintain its mobility.

It is important to note that non-surgical treatments can take months to show their results. Thus, it is essential to be patient during this process. If non-surgical treatments do not bring the results that the doctor expects, then you may have to undergo shoulder dislocation surgery.

Shoulder Dislocation Surgery:

When it comes to shoulder dislocation surgery, there are three main types that a surgeon may consider, depending on how severe your problem is. The kind of surgery you need depends on the dislocation & imaging state.

The types of surgeries are the following:

  • Arthroscopy: This type of surgery is required when the soft tissues present in the shoulder are damaged. It is a minimally invasive surgery during which a doctor inserts a camera into the shoulder and uses small instruments to repair the tissues
  • Open surgery: In an open surgery, the surgeon makes a cut in the shoulder and repairs tears in the ligament to treat the recurrent shoulder dislocation. Patients need to be admitted in the hospital in order to undergo this treatment. In this case, the shoulder dislocation recovery time can take 3-4 days within the hospital, and then at least 2 weeks for proper incision healing.

Physical rehabilitation plays a role after surgery as well. Patients will have their arm in a sling for a while and then must undergo rehab in order to improve and maintain their mobility.

Shoulder Dislocation After Effects:

Some of the shoulder dislocation after effects that you may experience post the surgery are pain, an inability to move your shoulder properly, and stiffness in the bones. However, as your body heals, these problems will subside.

Having said that, you must keep an eye out for some dangerous shoulder dislocation after effects, or side effects, such as infection, fever, and pus leaking out of the incision site. If you experience any of these, you must speak to your doctor immediately.


Recurrent shoulder dislocation can be quite painful and may hamper your life in many ways. Speak to an orthopaedic surgeon to understand why this is happening and how you can prevent it from occurring again and again through treatments!

Also Read:  Frozen Shoulder or Adhesive Capsulitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

e-Consultation Offer at Medlife


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.