The shoulder is the most dislocated joint in the body, about 95% of dislocations occur anteriorly. Anterior dislocation occurs when the arm is forcefully abducted, extended, and externally rotated, which commonly is seen when falling on an outstretched hand. With dislocation comes immediate shoulder pain and the injured shoulder may look different than the other.
Anterior shoulder dislocation causes injury to structures in the front of the shoulder and at times may even cause bony avulsion. An x-ray is necessary prior to relocation to ensure there is no fracture or neurovascular compromise in combination with dislocation. After relocation, the shoulder is normally immobilized for a period of time with rehab following. In the initial stage of injury it is important to ice to help limit swelling and reduce pain. Because the recurrence of anterior shoulder dislocations is very high, especially among young, active individuals, rehab following immobilization is crucial. The goals of rehab include regaining motion and strength and decreasing instability of the shoulder. It is important to strengthen the rotator cuff and muscles surrounding the shoulder to help stabilize the joint and prevent recurrence of injury. If instability persists and repetitive dislocations occur, anterior stabilization surgery may be indicated.