How to Safely Reset a Dislocated Shoulder A Step-by-Step Guide

How to put back dislocated shoulder


A dislocated shoulder can be a painful and distressing injury. It occurs when the upper arm bone (humerus) comes out of its socket in the shoulder blade (scapula). While a dislocated shoulder requires prompt medical attention, it is sometimes necessary to provide initial first aid before seeking professional help. This article will guide you through the process of safely resetting a dislocated shoulder to alleviate immediate discomfort and reduce the risk of further injury.

Disclaimer: It is essential to understand that attempting to reset a dislocated shoulder without proper training or medical supervision can be dangerous and may lead to complications. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not substitute professional medical advice. Always consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Evaluate the Situation

Before attempting any actions, carefully assess the injured person’s condition. If the dislocation is accompanied by severe pain, swelling, or visible deformity, do not proceed with resetting the shoulder on your own. Instead, seek immediate medical attention. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with the process, call for emergency medical services right away.

Stabilize the Arm

If you decide to proceed with resetting the shoulder, help the injured person sit or lie down comfortably. Support the arm on the injured side with a makeshift sling to immobilize it. Use a piece of cloth or clothing, making sure to support the arm from the elbow to the wrist.

Encourage Relaxation

The person with the dislocated shoulder may feel anxious and tense due to the pain. Encourage them to relax as much as possible to minimize muscle tension around the shoulder joint.

Find a Comfortable Position

Choose a position that will allow you to apply controlled pressure on the shoulder. The injured person can either sit upright or lie down on their back. Ensure that both you and the injured person are comfortable and stable in the chosen position.

Align the Shoulder

Stand or kneel behind the injured person, positioning yourself to have access to the dislocated shoulder. Gently support the injured arm with one hand and use the other hand to hold the elbow. Slowly and carefully, guide the arm into a position where it feels most comfortable.

Gentle Traction

Apply gentle traction to the dislocated arm by slowly pulling it in a downward direction. This traction helps the humerus to slide back into the shoulder socket. Remember, patience and a steady hand are essential during this process.

External Rotation

Once the arm is slightly pulled downward, begin externally rotating the arm by slowly turning the palm upward. This movement helps to unlock the shoulder joint and encourages the humerus to slide back into place.

Gradual Pressure

With the arm in the externally rotated position, apply gradual and gentle pressure on the forearm, directing it towards the midline of the body. Simultaneously, continue maintaining gentle traction and rotation throughout the process.

Listen to the Person

Throughout the process, communicate with the injured person and ask for feedback. If they experience severe pain or discomfort during the procedure, stop immediately, and seek professional medical assistance.

Seek Medical Attention

Even if you successfully reset the dislocated shoulder, it is crucial to have the person examined by a healthcare professional. There might be associated injuries or complications that require proper evaluation and treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get back from a dislocated shoulder?

It may take up to 16 weeks to fully return to playing some sports, but for some recovery can take longer. You’ll need to wear a sling to support your arm for the first few weeks. A physiotherapist may recommend some regular shoulder exercises to help reduce pain and stiffness. 

What is the best position to hold a dislocated shoulder? 

Traditionally, immobilization has occurred with the shoulder in a sling by the person’s side. This puts the shoulder in adduction and internal rotation. Considering that most anterior dislocations occur with the arm in an abducted and externally rotated position, this seemed to make sense to take stress of the tissue.


Resetting a dislocated shoulder should not be taken lightly, as it requires proper knowledge and experience to perform safely. Always prioritize the person’s well-being and seek professional medical attention promptly. In the meantime, supporting the injured arm with a sling and encouraging relaxation can provide comfort and reduce the risk of further injury. Remember, when it comes to medical emergencies, it is better to be cautious and seek expert help rather than taking unnecessary risks.

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