What’s the Difference Between Bankart Tears, Subluxation, and Multi-Directional Shoulder Dislocations?

Difference Between Bankart Tears, Subluxation, and Multi-Directional Shoulder Dislocations

The three most common types of shoulder dislocations present similar symptoms, but each requires specialized treatment. Here’s how to tell the difference between them.

When you’ve dislocated your shoulder, your first priority will likely be to seek relief from the pain. To do so, however, it’s important to understand the different types of shoulder dislocations — each of which comes with a slightly different set of complications — and identify which injury you’ve sustained.

To help you on your road to recovery, we’ve detailed the differences between the most common types of shoulder dislocations — bankart tears, subluxation, and multi-directional tears — and how to seek relief from each.


A Bankart tear (or lesion) is a tear in the cartilage surrounding the socket of the shoulder joint. It usually accompanies an anterior dislocation, which causes the shoulder to protrude forward. These tears generally result in heavy pain and numbness in the shoulder and upper arm, and leave patients with a catching sensation when attempting to move the shoulder.

Bankart tears are most frequently treated with a specialized arthroscopic surgery during which the surgeon repairs the torn labrum. You’ll need to keep your arm in a sling for about a month after surgery, but you should be able to resume most daily activities and begin physical therapy within a few weeks. Complete recovery should follow after five months.


Shoulder subluxation (or a partial dislocation) occurs when the upper arm bone is partially detached from the socket of the shoulder joint. Unlike a fully dislocated shoulder, a subluxed shoulder may slip back into place by itself, but it will still cause severe pain. Subluxed shoulders also tend to produce a feeling of instability in the affected joint, and they can increase the likelihood of future dislocations. Your orthopedic specialist will likely recommend a conservative treatment plan centered around rest and rehabilitation.

Like complete dislocations, subluxing shoulders may need to be treated surgically to ensure that the joint is set in place and that all surrounding tissues heal properly. Most patients can expect to resume their usual activities within a few weeks and recover completely in about five months.


The rarest type of shoulder dislocation, multi-directional dislocations occur when the shoulder simultaneously dislocates in several different directions. Usually caused by overuse or sudden trauma, these dislocations are most common in patients with loose ligaments (ligamentous laxity) or hyper-flexible joints.

If you’re looking to treat a dislocated shoulder, our team of specialists at New York Bone & Joint has decades of combined experience in diagnosing and treating dislocations of all types. Your doctor will walk you through every stage of the process with care and compassion, diagnosing your injury, guiding you through every step of rehabilitation, and promoting the long-term health of your shoulder joint.

You can find more in-depth information about symptoms and treatment options for shoulder dislocations here. If you’ve suffered a dislocation or worry that you might be prone to one, call us today to schedule a consultation!

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