The doctor will examine both shoulders, comparing your injured shoulder with your uninjured one. The doctor will check for swelling, shape changes, abrasions, bruising, pain when you move, tenderness and limited motion at the shoulder joint. The doctor will gently press and feel the area around your shoulder to locate the displaced head of the humerus under the skin. In addition, because many important blood vessels and nerves travel through your shoulder area, your doctor will check the strength of the pulses at your wrist and elbow and check your muscle strength and your response to touch on your arm, hand and fingers. In particular, your doctor will look for numbness on the outside of your upper arm, a sign of injury to the axillary nerve, which is vulnerable to injury in a shoulder dislocation.
If the results of your physical examination suggest that that you have a dislocated shoulder, your doctor will order shoulder X-rays to confirm the diagnosis.