Can a Dislocated Shoulder Heal On Its Own?

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body as it can turn in many different directions. A shoulder dislocation can be a painful and debilitating injury.

What is Shoulder Dislocation?

If your shoulder is suddenly injured, or the arm is twisted, it can cause the head of the upper arm to pop out of your shoulder blade socket. There are two types of shoulder dislocations: partial and complete.


A partial dislocation is called a subluxation. A subluxation exists when the ball and socket of the shoulder joint have lost some degree of contact. A 50% subluxation indicates the joint surfaces have lost half their contact.


A complete dislocation means that a 100% subluxation has occurred, and all joint surfaces have lost all contact.

If you suspect a dislocated shoulder, promptly seek medical attention.

What Are the Symptoms of Shoulder Dislocation?

The symptoms of a shoulder dislocation include:

  • Severe Pain
  • Misshapen Shoulder
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Bruising

How is Shoulder Dislocation Diagnosed?

The physical examination will include your doctor inspecting the shoulder area for swelling, tenderness, or deformity. A shoulder X-ray will show your doctor the dislocation if there are any broken or fractured bones, and to help determine if there is other damage to your shoulder joint.

What Are the Treatment Options for a Dislocated Shoulder?

Dislocated shoulder treatment may involve:

Shoulder Bones Repositioning

Your doctor may try to gently manipulate your shoulder bones back into place. To reduce pain and swelling during the procedure, a muscle relaxant or sedative may be given first. In rare cases, a general anesthetic is given before the manipulation. Once your shoulder bones are back in their proper positions, any serious pain should improve right away.


In some cases, surgery may be required if you have a severely separated shoulder, a weak shoulder joint, or torn ligaments. Though it’s rare, surgical repair is needed if nerves or blood vessels are damaged. If you have repeat shoulder dislocations, surgery that tightens the ligaments surrounding the shoulder joint can help.


Pain relievers or muscle relaxants can help keep you comfortable.


A splint or sling may be applied for several days or weeks to prevent shoulder movement.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may recommend a physical therapy program designed to restore strength, stability, and range of motion.

What Happens If a Dislocated Shoulder Is Left Untreated?

An untreated shoulder dislocation will increase in pain and swelling. There will be a significant loss of shoulder mobility. Also, further damage to surrounding blood vessels and ligaments can occur. It’s important to see a doctor immediately if you have a shoulder dislocation.

Can a Dislocated Shoulder Pop Back Itself?

You can dislocate a shoulder that spontaneously pops back itself. See a doctor afterward, as there may be residual issues, such as a lesion or cartilage damage.

What Are the Self Care Options for a Dislocated Shoulder?

Before you see a doctor, immobilize the shoulder using a sling. Once your doctor has put the shoulder joint back into place, you can rest and ice your shoulder.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can help with the pain.

How Can You Condition Your Shoulder Joint?

You can reduce the risk of recurrent shoulder dislocations by following your doctor’s recommended physical therapy plan that is designed to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder.

If you have a dislocated shoulder the first step to better health is a consultation with an orthopedic specialist for diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Dr. Burrus is an experienced fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon who is dedicated to providing high-quality, specialized holistic care. Call (512) 477-6341 or fill out the form on this page to schedule an appointment today.