Shoulder instability is when the end of the humerus (upper arm bone) comes out of the shoulder socket. This dislocation can occur because of a sudden injury or overuse of the joint. If you experience shoulder instability, the team at Marin Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Novato, CA, can help you find a treatment plan.
Nonsurgical options will almost always be considered first, but if surgery is necessary, it may be able to prevent the shoulder from becoming dislocated again. Some patients with chronic shoulder instability, who experience shoulder dislocation often, may need surgery to repair loose ligaments or tendons in the shoulder.
What Causes Shoulder Instability?
The shoulder can become unstable due to an injury that causes dislocation, repetitive strain from shoulder-intensive activities, or naturally loose joints.
- Injury/dislocation. Most cases of shoulder instability are the result of an initial dislocation. When the humerus comes out of its socket, it can damage the socket and the ligaments that surround the shoulder, making the joint loose and unstable. Some injuries can also tear the cartilage around the socket (Bankart lesion).
- Repetitive strain. Even if you have never experienced a dislocation, certain activities can cause the ligaments in the shoulder to become loose. Swimming, tennis, volleyball, and jobs that involve lots of overhead arm movements can loosen the ligaments, creating an unstable shoulder.
- Multidirectional instability. Some patients can experience shoulder instability without experiencing injuries or repetitive strain. Patients with naturally loose ligaments can experience shoulder looseness or dislocation. This condition is considerably rarer than instability caused by injuries or repetitive motion.
Shoulder Instability Treatment
Before considering surgery, your doctor will explore other options to relieve pain and restrengthen the shoulder. Many patients react well to a combination of the following nonsurgical treatment options:
- Physical therapy. Strengthening the muscles around the shoulder can increase stability and prevent re-injury.
- Medication management. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication) can reduce pain and swelling.
- Modifying activity. Especially for repetitive motion injuries, patients may need to modify their activities to rest the shoulder for a while.
When these measures can be very effective, sometimes surgery is the only way to treat painful shoulder instability. Especially if the ligaments are torn or stretched, surgery can help the shoulder stay in place. Depending on your injury, you may need one of the following procedures:
- Arthroscopic surgery. If the soft tissue in or around the shoulder is damaged, an arthroscopic procedure may be right for you. Your surgeon will be able to insert tiny instruments into the shoulder, avoiding the need for open surgery.
- Open surgery. More complex conditions may require open surgery to repair the ligaments or other tissues.
Your doctor will go over all your treatment options after examining your condition. After your surgery, you will likely have to rest and do exercises to rehabilitate your shoulder.
Shoulder Instability Treatment in Novato, CA
If you are experiencing shoulder pain, dislocation, weakness, or other symptoms of shoulder instability, give our office in Marin County a call. One of our staff members will be happy to help you.