ZocdocAnswersDo you have to go to the doctor if you dislocate your shoulder?

Question

Do you have to go to the doctor if you dislocate your shoulder?

My friend fell really hard and his shoulder popped out of socket. He got it back in on his own, but I?m worried about him. Shouldn't he go to the doctor? Could his shoulder be fine if he just lets it heal on its own?

Answer

Any time you have a major injury to a joint, such as potentially dislocating the shoulder, it is important to go see a doctor to get it checked out. In the case of the shoulder, there are several key things that the doctor will be looking for on the examination. First of all, it is possible to tear or otherwise damage the ligaments and connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint, which can lead to permanent instability (tendency to dislocate again) of the shoulder. This is important to detect, as shoulder instability and repeated dislocations can lead to chronic pain, weakness in the arm, and premature arthritis of the shoulder. Second, when the shoulder dislocates, it is possible to stretch the nerves that feed the muscles of the shoulder and arm. Sometimes, this stretching can lead to serious nerve damage. The doctor will look for this by testing for any numbness or other sensory impairment in the skin of the shoulder and they will also test the strength of the muscles. If anything is picked up on this exam by your friend's primary care doctor, it may be necessary to be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist to determine whether any treatment is necessary.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.