Chronic Shoulder Instability

The shoulder is the most moveable joint in your body. It helps you to lift your arm, to rotate it, and to reach up over your head. It is able to turn in many directions. This greater range of motion, however, can cause instability.

Shoulder instability occurs when the head of the upper arm bone is forced out of the shoulder socket. This can happen as a result of a sudden injury or from overuse.

Once a shoulder has dislocated, it is vulnerable to repeat episodes. When the shoulder is loose and slips out of place repeatedly, it is called chronic shoulder instability.

Cause

There are three common ways that a shoulder can become unstable:

Shoulder Dislocation

Severe injury, or trauma, is often the cause of an initial shoulder dislocation. When the head of the humerus dislocates, the socket bone (glenoid) and the ligaments in the front of the shoulder are often injured. The labrum — the cartilage rim around the edge of the glenoid — may also tear. This is commonly called a Bankart lesion. A severe first dislocation can lead to continued dislocations, giving out, or a feeling of instability.

Repetitive Strain

Some people with shoulder instability have never had a dislocation. Most of these patients have looser ligaments in their shoulders. This increased looseness is sometimes just their normal anatomy. Sometimes, it is the result of repetitive overhead motion.

Swimming, tennis, and volleyball are among the sports requiring repetitive overhead motion that can stretch out the shoulder ligaments. Many jobs also require repetitive overhead work.

Looser ligaments can make it hard to maintain shoulder stability. Repetitive or stressful activities can challenge a weakened shoulder. This can result in a painful, unstable shoulder.

Multidirectional Instability

In a small minority of patients, the shoulder can become unstable without a history of injury or repetitive strain. In such patients, the shoulder may feel loose or dislocate in multiple directions, meaning the ball may dislocate out the front, out the back, or out the bottom of the shoulder. This is called multidirectional instability. These patients have naturally loose ligaments throughout the body and may be “double-jointed.”

Shoulder Conditions

  • Bankart Lesion
  • Biceps Tendon Rupture
  • Broken Collarbone
  • Burners & Stinger
  • Bursitis
  • Chronic Shoulder Instability
  • Fracture of the Shoulder Blade
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Labral Tear
  • Rotator Cuff Tear
  • Shoulder Arthritis
  • Shoulder Dislocation
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Shoulder Separation
  • Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior (SLAP)
  • Throwing Injuries[/li_item|

Shoulder Treatments

  • Acromioplasty
  • Arthroscopic Bankart Repair
  • Biceps Tendon Rupture Surgery
  • Biceps Tenodesis
  • Broken Collarbone Surgery
  • Bursitis/Shoulder Impingement Surgery
  • Closed Reduction Shoulder Surgery
  • Labrum Surgery
  • Instability Shoulder Surgery
  • Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery
  • Revision Shoulder Replacement Surgery
  • Rotator Cuff Repair
  • Shoulder Arthritis Surgery
  • Shoulder Arthroscopy Surgery
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Treatment
  • Shoulder Separation Surgery
  • Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery
  • Throwing Injury Surgeries

Conservative Treatments

The Orthopedic physicians at Peninsula Bone & Joint Clinic provide conservative treatment options for Shoulder conditions and injuries.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of chronic shoulder instability include:

  • Pain caused by shoulder injury
  • Repeated shoulder dislocations
  • Repeated instances of the shoulder giving out
  • A persistent sensation of the shoulder feeling loose, slipping in and out of the joint, or just “hanging there”

Diagnosis

Physical Examination & Patient History

During your first visit, your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and medical history. During the physical examination, your doctor will check all the structures of your injury, and compare them to your non-injured anatomy.  Most injuries can be diagnosed with a thorough physical examination.

Imaging Tests

Imaging Tests Other tests which may help your doctor confirm your diagnosis include:

X-rays. Although they will not show any injury, x-rays can show whether the injury is associated with a broken bone.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. If your injury requires an MRI, this study is utilized to create a better image of soft tissues injuries. However, an MRI may not be required for your particular injury circumstance and will be ordered based on a thorough examination by your Peninsula Bone & Joint Clinic Orthopedic physician.

Treatment Options

Non-Surgical

Chronic shoulder instability is often first treated with nonsurgical options. If these options do not relieve the pain and instability, surgery may be needed.

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan to relieve your symptoms. It often takes several months of nonsurgical treatment before you can tell how well it is working. Nonsurgical treatment typically includes:

Activity modification. You must make some changes in your lifestyle and avoid activities that aggravate your symptoms.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen reduce pain and swelling.

Physical therapy. Strengthening shoulder muscles and working on shoulder control can increase stability. Your therapist will design a home exercise program for your shoulder.

Surgical

Surgery is often necessary to repair torn or stretched ligaments so that they are better able to hold the shoulder joint in place.

Arthroscopy. Soft tissues in the shoulder can be repaired using tiny instruments and small incisions. This is a same-day or outpatient procedure. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery. Your surgeon will look inside the shoulder with a tiny camera and perform the surgery with special pencil-thin instruments.

Open Surgery. Some patients may need an open surgical procedure. This involves making a larger incision over the shoulder and performing the repair under direct visualization.

Rehabilitation. After surgery, your shoulder may be immobilized temporarily with a sling.

When the sling is removed, exercises to rehabilitate the ligaments will be started. These will improve the range of motion in your shoulder and prevent scarring as the ligaments heal. Exercises to strengthen your shoulder will gradually be added to your rehabilitation plan.

Be sure to follow your doctor’s treatment plan. Although it is a slow process, your commitment to physical therapy is the most important factor in returning to all the activities you enjoy.

Peninsula Bone & Joint Clinic

The Orthopaedic physicians at Peninsula Bone & Joint Clinic provide comprehensive services to all members of the family.
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