Shoulder dislocations are a painful injury that is almost always traumatic. 95% of glenohumeral dislocations occur in the anterior direction, while only 5% occur posteriorly. Common mechanisms of injury include a fall on an outstretched hand, a traction force, or a direct blow to the shoulder. A dislocation is defined as an episode where the head of the humerus completely disengages from the glenoid fossa, and does not re-locate spontaneously.
If you cannot reduce or re-locate your own shoulder (and we do not advise that you try), a medical professional should do this for you; usually an athletic trainer, should your injury occur at a sporting event, or a physician. Once re-located, you will most likely be immobilized in a sling. In some cases you may undergo imaging, as there are several concomitant injuries that can occur when a dislocation happens. These include injury to the labrum, or a fracture to the humeral head.
Following a period of immobilization, your physical therapist will work with you to gradually increase your passive and active range of motion, and re-gain strength in your shoulder. Your PT will gradually expose your shoulder to different movements, eventually progressing you back to overhead activity and/or sports-specific movement. Much of rehab following a shoulder dislocation involves decreasing apprehension and muscle guarding and improving confidence with movement.