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What we’ll cover
  1. What is shoulder dislocation?
  2. Do I need surgery for my shoulder dislocation?
  3. Physiotherapy for a shoulder dislocation
  4. How long will it to take to recover from a dislocated shoulder?

Shoulder dislocation

Shoulder dislocations occur when the arm bone (humerus) come out of the socket. Whilst dislocations can occur either anterior or posterior, anterior dislocations account for 97% of all shoulder dislocation. Physiotherapy plays a critical role in rehabilitation following dislocation with approximately 40% experiencing another dislocation within 12 months. Our physiotherapist Laura Scott identifies what to do if you experience a shoulder dislocation.

What is shoulder dislocation?

Anterior shoulder dislocations or subluxations often result from a traumatic incident. In an anterior shoulder dislocation, the humeral head slips forward out of the socket. This occurs most commonly from direct trauma where the shoulder is placed in a vulnerable position. The most vulnerable position for a shoulder is when it is placed in a “throwing position”. Common sports that can cause shoulder dislocations include AFL, rugby, basketball.

The shoulder (glenohumeral) joint is a ball and socket joint which allows it to have the largest range of motion of any joint in the body across multiple planes of movement. In order to have such a large range of motion, the congruence and stability of the joint is compromised. In fact, at any one time only 25% of the humeral head makes contact with the socket. Instead, most of the joint’s stability is provided by surrounding muscles and ligaments.

Risk Factor for instability/recurrent dislocation:

  • Occupation (repeated overhead movement)
  • Contact sport
  • Age (<40 years and under) ­
  • Hypermobility
  • Previous shoulder dislocations

Do I need surgery for my shoulder dislocation?

Depending on your specific individual goals and severity of dislocation, shoulder dislocations can be managed without the need for surgery. Importantly, the frequency and mechanism of dislocations also influences whether surgery is an appropriate option.

Your physiotherapist is well placed to perform a thorough assessment to assess the level of damage associated with the incident. Your physiotherapist may send you for an x-ray to rule in or out a fracture to the humerus. In some cases, further imaging such as an MRI may be recommended to assess the severity of soft tissue damage such as the ligaments, capsule or joint socket. Your physiotherapist will assess the strength of your rotator cuff and whether the labrum has been damaged which will influence your treatment roadmap.

Our team at Malvern East Physiotherapy work closely with a number of leading Melbourne based upper limb specialists.

Physiotherapy for a shoulder dislocation

Depending on the level of pain, instability and loss of joint range, physiotherapy treatment initially may vary from patient to patient. You may be required to wear a sling to help immobilise the joint or utilise tape to offer stability and pain relief. A sling may be commonly recommended for the first 1 – 2 weeks following dislocation.

Physiotherapy treatment will aim to restore full range of motion in all planes of movement. Importantly, if flexibility isn’t restored quickly, the capacity to improve shoulder flexibility becomes more difficult to develop.

Once this is flexibility is achieved, your physiotherapist will guide you through a comprehensive strengthening program focusing on your rotator cuff. This group of muscles contribute substantially to shoulder stability. Weakness or poor endurance of the rotator cuff commonly results in reoccurring instability and shoulder issues. The final stage of rehabilitation includes proprioception and sport-specific movements in a graded fashion to ensure full return to function.

How long will it to take to recover from a dislocated shoulder?

The length of recovery is dependent on a number of factors. Day to day tasks improve commonly within 2 – 3 weeks. However, care needs to continue to be taken with heavy or overhead lifting during the early periods for the first 3 – 4 months. Total time frame to develop full strength and endurance can be up to 6 – 9 months.

If you have experienced a recent shoulder dislocation or feel as though you experience instability around the shoulder joint, let one of our physiotherapists go through a thorough assessment. Call us or book online today.


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Last week our team celebrated another great year. 

Whilst Melbourne’s weather had its own plans, we were still determined to keep with the theme of ‘Italian Summer’. We let our hair down to master the art of mixology 🍸🍹followed by an Italian feast. Friday morning Run Club with the team. Practicing what we preach!

Staying stronger, healthier and happier. This time last week, our team was nervously completing their final preparations for @melbmara . 

Congratulations to our physiotherapists and ME community who ran on the day.

Dilen and Michael completed their first marathons. Abbey and Lizzie smashed out their first half. Last Sunday, our team headed down to see our own Matt Warren win a premiership in the VAFA Premier Men’s Competition. Last week our team dedicated a full day to professional development and team building. At ME Physio we pride ourselves on collaboration to put you at the centre of everything we do. 

Our team covered the latest treatments for back pain, financial well-being and finished off the day with salsa dancing. 

Many thanks to our guests including James Schomburgk from @the2ndvisitphysio , Financial Planners Tony Vikram & Cameron Bishop and the @salsafoundation At ME Physio, our focus is on helping you get stronger so that you can keep doing the things you love.

For Tony and Joan, healthier and stronger is being able to navigate the iconic Coast to Coast Walk in the UK! We recently had the pleasure of hosting Elise Bujor from Women’s & Men’s Health Physiotherapy to discuss women’s health issues across the lifespan. 

Our team pride themselves on staying up to date to ensure you’re able to stay healthier, happier and stronger. Huge milestones over the past few weeks with both Tom and Jude from @delasallefc doing their first bit of running in their rehab. 

Tom is on the return from an ankle dislocation whilst Jude is putting in the hard work following a knee reconstruction. Last week our team enjoyed some friendly rivalry at the footy. 

With finals around the corner, some of our team can now safely make holidays plans for September. We recently had the pleasure of hosting the podiatry team from @sespodiatry. 

Our physiotherapists Michael and Abbey presented on rehabilitation following Achilles surgical repair and ankle surgery. Last weekend some of our team got together to complete the 10 km run @runmelbourne. There was no finish line picture as some were keen to run another 15 km!

Whilst running wasn’t for some - brunch was well received by everyone. Shoulder impingement can be incredibly frustrating and painful. 

Tony has been working closely with our physiotherapists Vernon and Dilen to get on top of his shoulder pain. His treatment plan has included hands-on physiotherapy and individualised exercises in our hydrotherapy and strength programs.

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