fbpx Skip to content
Shoulder Dislocation Treatment

Shoulder Dislocation Treatment

Did you know that well-structured shoulder dislocation treatment and shoulder subluxation management can be the difference between a positive outcome and recurrent shoulder instability?

At Perth Shoulder Physio, we’re experts in shoulder dislocation treatment and shoulder subluxation management in Perth.

We understand the traumatic nature of your shoulder injury, answer all your questions and most importantly, provide individualised shoulder dislocation treatment.

Book an appointment to start the journey toward your positive outcome.

Note: This page contains general information about shoulder dislocation treatment and shoulder subluxation management.

Book an appointment with Perth Shoulder Physio to receive specific education and expert shoulder dislocation treatment in Perth.

What is the difference between shoulder dislocation and shoulder subluxation?

Shoulder dislocation and shoulder subluxation are terms that are mistakenly used interchangeably, but they are in fact slightly different conditions.

Shoulder Dislocation

Let’s start with the shoulder. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The ball is held in place by bone, ligament and muscles. The term shoulder dislocation implies that the ball has slipped completely out of its socket. The first episode of shoulder dislocation is usually traumatic and often requires assistance to relocate the ball back into the socket. This usually results in damage to the bone or soft tissues and can result in recurrent episodes of instability.

Recurrent shoulder dislocations can occur with less force but are also easier to relocate, often without assistance. Shoulder dislocation treatment by a skilled shoulder physiotherapist involves strengthening the muscles responsible for holding the ball in the socket.

Shoulder Subluxation

Shoulder subluxation is basically a ‘mini dislocation’. Shoulder subluxation involves the ball shifting partly out of the socket before spontaneously returning to its correct position. Shoulder subluxations can affect those with loose shoulders and are typically less traumatic than dislocations. Shoulder subluxation management is very similar to shoulder dislocation treatment.

How does the shoulder dislocate or sublux?

You might be surprised to learn that there are 4 common ways the shoulder comes out of the socket.

Let’s see what these are:

  1. Anterior Shoulder Dislocation

Anterior shoulder dislocations account for about 90% off all shoulder dislocations. Anterior = front, so an anterior shoulder dislocation involves the ball slipping out of the front of the socket.

  1. Posterior Shoulder Dislocation

A posterior shoulder dislocation involves the ball slipping out of the back of the socket. They are far less common than anterior shoulder dislocations.

  1. Anterior Shoulder Subluxation

Anterior shoulder subluxation involves the ball sliding partly out of the front of the socket before returning to the correct position.

  1. Posterior Shoulder Subluxation

Posterior shoulder subluxation involves the ball sliding partly out of the back of the socket before returning to the correct position.

What about shoulder instability?

Shoulder instability implies that the shoulder is unstable and prone to subluxation or dislocation. It is common following a dislocation event due to bone or soft tissue damage. Anterior shoulder instability is the most common, following an anterior shoulder dislocation.

Multi-directional instability is less common and implies that ball may slide out of the joint in two or more directions. Multi-directional instability is usually due to loose ligaments, rather than a traumatic event.

What are some other common terms related to shoulder instability?


Shoulder hypermobility is a term that suggests the ball and socket joint has more movement than ‘normal’. Shoulder hypermobility does not necessarily mean that the shoulder more likely to dislocate or cause pain. In fact, shoulder hypermobility can be beneficial in sports that require flexibility such as swimming.


Shoulder laxity is another way of defining ‘looseness’ in a particular direction. I.e., Anterior laxity suggests that the ball can slide further forward in the socket than normal. Shoulder laxity may or may not involve structural damage but is commonly associated with undesirable symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Shoulder Dislocation, Subluxation and Instability?

 Acute Shoulder Dislocation Symptoms

Whilst the shoulder is out of joint, it’s common to have moderate to severe pain and a feeling of distress. When the shoulder is relocated there is an immediate reduction in pain and feeling of wellbeing. This can be followed by weeks of aching pain caused by soft tissue trauma and inflammation.

Sharp pain is experienced when the shoulder is moved into provocative positions. Symptoms usually settle within 8-12 weeks.

Shoulder Subluxation Symptoms

Subluxation events are typically less traumatic and less painful than dislocations. A mild feeling of distress or unease can be felt as the ball starts to slide out of the joint and spontaneously relocates.

Following shoulder subluxation, symptoms range from no pain to moderate aching depending on the degree of soft tissue trauma. It’s uncommon for symptoms to persist more than 6-8 weeks.

Recurrent Instability Symptoms

After a shoulder dislocation or subluxation, it’s common to suffer from recurrent instability episodes.

This may occur when moving the shoulder into certain positions, performing overhead activities or athletic activities such as throwing. Symptoms reported include a ‘slipping or abnormal feeling in the joint’, ‘dead arm’, ‘sharp pain’ and ‘clunking or clicking’.

How are Shoulder Dislocations treated?

This section includes general advice on shoulder dislocation treatment in Perth, which we hope will benefit you.

Perth Shoulder Physio strongly recommends booking an appointment with an expert shoulder physio, as the treatment for dislocated shoulders varies depending on the direction of dislocation and the amount of soft tissue and bone trauma.

Important: Do not attempt to forcefully relocate the shoulder, as this may result in permanent joint and nerve damage. A trained medical professional should relocate the shoulder as quickly as possible in order to avoid complications.

A sling can be worn for comfort for the first week or two following a dislocation however there is no evidence for long-term use.

Physiotherapy for Shoulder Dislocations

Shoulder dislocation treatment should commence immediately with an expert shoulder physiotherapist. Shoulder dislocation treatment at Perth Shoulder Physio involves an expert rehabilitation program from the day of injury right through to a successful return to sport.

We will discuss whether surgery is indicated and point you in the direction of the best shoulder surgeons in Perth as required.

Your shoulder dislocation treatment will consist of a progressive strengthening program to ensure the shoulder muscles perform optimally in their role of securing the ball in its socket. Your Perth Shoulder Physio will carefully choose the most appropriate exercises for your individual presentation.

Surgery for Shoulder Dislocations

If there is significant bone or ligament damage, surgery may be required to avoid recurrent instability. A consultation with the experts at Perth Shoulder Physio will reveal whether shoulder surgery is indicated in your case. If shoulder surgery is required, we can recommend the best shoulder surgeons in Perth for your case.

Management of shoulder subluxation

Shoulder subluxation management varies according to the structural integrity of the joint and the degree of shoulder instability. Usually, shoulder subluxation management consists of a physiotherapy rehabilitation program similar to that for shoulder dislocations.

Exercises for shoulder dislocation

Shoulder dislocation exercises are an essential component of successful rehabilitation following a dislocated shoulder. The exercises must be individually targeted to ensure the appropriate muscles are strengthened in order to stabilize the shoulder.

Get your shoulder stable and working well again

Shoulder pain got you out of joint?

Need help getting your shoulder back into place and the pain under control?

Book an appointment today for a personalised treatment plan, to get your shoulders back moving like they should.


Ready to recover and get pain free?

Your Perth Shoulder Physio is ready to help.