Shoulder Instability

Understanding Your Condition

What is meant by the term ‘shoulder instability’?

Shoulder instability occurs when the humeral head dislocates from the socket, known as the glenoid.

What are the causes of shoulder instability?

Shoulder instability can be classified into two categories: acute traumatic dislocations and recurrent instability. Acute traumatic dislocations occur in the setting of trauma. This can happen with sports injuries, falls, or car accidents. Recurrent instability may be related to repeated shoulder injuries. It may also be more common in patients with ligamentous laxity.

What are the symptoms of shoulder instability?

Acute traumatic shoulder dislocations may results in shoulder pain and deformity. Usually these acute dislocations must be reduced by a medical professional in the emergency department or hospital setting. Chronic recurrent instability may result in significant pain and a sense of apprehension with certain shoulder movements.

How is shoulder instability diagnosed?

Acute shoulder dislocations are diagnosed based on history, physical examination, and x-rays. In some cases, after shoulder reduction is performed advanced imaging with either computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be performed. Recurrent dislocations or chronic instability is also diagnosed with history, physical examination, and x-rays. In the cases of chronic instability, shoulder CT and MRI may be helpful to establish the underlying anatomic cause of recurrent instability, which may guide further treatment.

How is shoulder instability treated?

In the setting of an acutely dislocated shoulder, the immediate treatment is reduction of the shoulder joint to reduce the risk of further joint damage. In the cases of recurrent instability, if non-operative treatment with activity modification and physical therapy are unsuccessful, then surgery may be recommended.

How can I learn more about shoulder instability?

Learn more about shoulder dislocations and chronic shoulder instability from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Make an appointment with the expert surgeons at Mobility Bone & Joint Institute to discuss your options.

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