T Nation

Severe (I Mean SEVERE) Shoulder Dislocation


A bus I was on fell off a bridge (about 2.5 meters) and landed on the side I was on... Besides many small injuries, I badly (severely) dislocated my right shoulder ANTERIORLY (to the front).

It's been nine weeks, and the doctor says it may be that I NEVER CAN go back to lifting, but I think he doesn't understand how crucial lifting is for me, and he looks fat and out of shape so I think it is easy for him to say that....

Anyone here has SEVERELLY dislocated their shoulder and been able to come back? How long? What sort of recovery? The doc says I don't need surgery to tighten the tendons or reconstruct the shoulder, yet so far I can lift my arm without pain only about 15 degrees to the front, and about 40 degrees to the side (without pain). I can do PROM (passive range of motion) to about 90% of those two movements. I don't know why but I can and feel strong pulling the arm back as imitating a cable row, and I can shrug normally.

I'm 46 years old
Weigh: 225 lb
Nine weeks ago day before the accident: squat 355 lb, overhead press 185 lb, DL 455lb, bench pressed 275 lb, one hand DB snatch 100lb (three times)
I'd hate to lose all the work I put into it over so many years if I can never lift again.

Any advice? Any at all. This is so hard and depressing.


Your accident is unfortunate, sorry to hear that. I have not dislocated my shoulder, but I have had a partial rotator cuff tear. Even that took me awhile to heal. Mainly due to trying to get back to heavy lifting too soon. If I could do my recovery over it would go like this.

Let it heal, you will loose gains and that sucks. But you need to get all inflammation out of the joint before you proceed. If you can do unilateral lifts I recommend that. So long as there is not strain on the injured area. Once the pain is gone, work on massage to get damaged cells out of the shoulder. Then start range of motion exercises. From that point on I would use the shoulder saver series from this site.

All pressing movements, upper back lifts done light with control. Eventually if you're patient you should start to feel like your old self. If you rush any of these steps, expect it to take longer. I made that tear last years, because I didn't approach the healing with patience. It is hard, you just want to get back to normal fast.

Hope for a speedy recovery for ya.


What does your PT say?


I dislocated (anterior) my shoulder while snowboarding 8 years ago. No surgery. It was about a year before I felt very comfortable with upper body pressing again. I took it very slow coming back. Today I don't notice any issues at all and shoulders are actually a strong point.

Of course - not a Dr. or a PT, and every situation is different. just wanted to share my experience.


I had an anterior dislocation of my left (non-dominant) shoulder at the end of March this year. I was playing rugby and landed on my elbow in such a way that it wrenched my shoulder out. Without going into too much detail, it took an hour and a half before it was put back into the socket, and the final damage included: temporary nerve damage, a broken arm bone, torn ligaments and a severely strained delt.

I ended up in a sling for about 6 weeks, with very very little strength or mobility. Over the summer I kept my lifting to kettlebell swings and ab work, since it didn't bother my shoulder at all. As you're recovering, look into doing swings, it was a great compromise for me. Dan John has some awesome workouts.

Anyways flash to now, I can OH Press some. It's pain-free, but I can't fully externally rotate my shoulder at the lockout of a press. And I don't have the mobility to bench at all, it's very painful at the bottom of the movement. Also, back squats are out, I can't reach far enough behind me to get my left hand on the bar.


It's going to take forever to get your strength back,
Prioritize mobility,
Use kettlebells to stay in shape while you're recovering.
Hang in there!


FWIW I had a rotator cuff injury (self diagnosing but I think I may have completely torn my supraspinatus) and couldn't move my arm at all for a few weeks. Went to a doctor and he just shrugged it off told me not to worry about it and it would heal on its own. No recommendation for PT or anything.

Took months before I could raise my arm to shoulder height and was probably around a year of working on it before I had full range of motion again. Years later it still fucks with me on a regular basis and affects the normal functioning of muscles in my shoulder and upper back. Not so much that I cant do anything specific but I really have to watch my volume and work correctives and shit or I get pretty pronounced imbalances and start to have issues with joint pain.

I guess what I'm getting at here is that you aren't married to one doctor or PT and should probably get a 2nd or 3rd or 4th opinion and do as much research as possible on your own. You can bet if I was treated like they treat a pro athlete my shoulder probably would have been back to 100% in short order. Just realize its on you to make sure you get the best care and have the best recovery possible.

Also FWIW just from working with clients who have had similar injuries (dislocations) with the right treatment I think you should be able to regain pretty normal function. The idea that you will never be able to lift weights again sounds completely asinine to me. Just keep your head up man. You might have a bit of a road ahead but its certainly not the end.


Thanks for the reply, I also can't lift my arm overhead, and from the responses and other things I've read on the net, it seems it will be a long time before I can lift anything, if ever, overhead also. It sucks so bad that I don't know what else to do about it. There were no broken bones, and the skin didn't break either from the accident, it was just black and blue for weeks and all the medicine...

I guess I was hoping anyone here would have a similar experience and get times and things to do for recovery. The best advice I've found so far is "move as far as the pain lets you" which seems simple but it says a lot once you think more about it. I would like to know specific things to do, the articles hereso far are about Saving the shoulder, but it assumes you CAN move the shoulder full range, so the advice is to lift very light weights or to do bw excerises.

I don't care so much (but I do) about how long it takes, just to know from someone with SEVERE dislocation how long it took and what he or she did, and how it progressed, etc.
thanks all for the prompt responses.


Just wanting to say thanks, and to answer some of what you said:
I know recovery it's on me, and I'm a tough MF and I am not looking for pity here or anything, the bus flew from a damn bridge and that makes this particular dislocation a bit of a unique thing, and I HAVE done research on my own and they all talk about dislocations from playing football or rugby and they call them severe, but I haven't found one quite so similar.

So I guess what I was asking is if you know of someone or you yourself, with a SEVERE dislocation like mine, and what it is I can expect, and how their progression to healing the shoulder was, etc. the doc says to get used to the idea I may neve lift again and I want to knock him on his ass, the fat bastard, so easy those words roll from his fat mouth...

But before I throw in the towel I want to hear some bro science here about how to face it. I definitely can't hold the bar to do back squats, and I can't lift that arm above shoulder level, but I can pull and bend the elbow without pain, I hopw I can do this without a big NOTICEABLE imbalance, I don't want to look deformed, one pectoral big and one shoulder big, etc. ... So any advice.


My PT is a dumb ass... Like most personal trainers who got their "certificates" over a weekend seminar. I mean he wants my arm in a sling for another two months!! And he says being so muscular is a negative when it comes to recovery, because the "muscle demands/asks too much" whatever the hell that means.

If I had to guess I'd say he means the tendency of muscle to pull when needed and if you have bigger muscles it pulls stronger when it shouldn't and that's bad for recovery. I can see his point but I think we should be able to work around it if we are careful. But muscle as a disadvantage is just... Dumb.

Plus I've researched it on the net and most doctors can't agree on the treatment or recovery periods, some say sling it for two weeks, then physical therapy, others sling it for up to eight weeks and then slow movements, others say sling for a week and then start moving what you can move specially what they call pendulums and static exercises...

So there's no consensus about it, they say the shoulder is not even a joint it is a "girdle" and PRONE to dislocations. The only things they all seem to agree about are: wait for all swelling to go away, and move as far as it is pain free. But how do I know if the swelling inside is gone? They don't say. Is it the case that as long as I have pain I have swelling, as some couches say about post intense workouts?

Does it means I have to wait until I can move without ANY pain to move the arm? That's not how we do it with training, we go back often with a bit of soreness from the last workout... All this sucks. So any specific. advice would help


The kind of soreness from your last workout is much different than a acute injury swelling and tissue damage. Prepare to take it easy, find, or fall back on a old hobby to take your mind off of it. You can train legs, and your uninjured upper body. You won't get lopsided from working your opposite shoulder. Look for articles on this site about unilateral training for injuries.

The injured side will benefit as well. If he says sling it for two months, do exactly that. Remember massage, and take it slow. Don't make the common mistake of rushing into training. You would rather heal it slowly, and get back to normal. Over a partial healing process only to have to start over again and again because you were not patient.