Health A-Z

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When the arm bone is forced out of its socket, it remains attached to the muscles of the shoulder blade and upper chest. These muscles pull the arm bone against the shoulder and chest, even when the bone is out of its socket and off center. If these muscles are in spasm, they need to be relaxed before the doctor can move the arm bone back into its socket. Your doctor may give you medications to ease your pain and relax your shoulder muscles. Then the doctor will pull carefully against these muscles until the head of your humerus slips back into its socket. Sometimes, doctors use arm weights on the side of the dislocation to make it easier to extend these tight muscles. This treatment, with or without the weights, is called closed reduction.

Once your shoulder joint is back in its normal position, you will rest your arm in a sling for one to four weeks. Teenagers tend to need the sling longer than older people. You also will begin a physical therapy program to restore the normal strength and range of motion in your shoulder joint.

If you continue to have severe shoulder pain after closed reduction or if your injured shoulder is loose and unstable in spite of physical therapy, you may need surgery to repair the fibrous tissues that support your shoulder joint.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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