Shoulder instability occurs when the lining of the shoulder joint (capsule), the labrum, or the surrounding ligaments are stretched, torn, or detached. Chronic shoulder instability is a persistent inability of these supportive tissues to keep the ball of the upper arm bone (humeral head) securely positioned in its socket in the shoulder joint.
Because the shoulder joint is highly mobile, it is prone to instability. As a result, the ball of the upper arm bone (humeral head) may repeatedly slip partially or completely out of its socket. Known as a shoulder dislocation, this injury can occur suddenly through direct trauma or gradually through repetitive strain.
What Does Shoulder Instability Feel Like?
Chronic shoulder instability can cause:
- A partial shoulder dislocation (subluxation), which in turn can cause sudden pain, a feeling of looseness in the shoulder joint, and/or a pinching sensation when the arm is raised overhead.
- A complete shoulder dislocation, which in turn can cause sudden pain that intensifies with movement along with swelling, bruising, and a visible deformity.
In either case, if a nearby nerve is stretched, numbness may develop on the outside of the arm, just below the tip of the shoulder. Additionally, the shoulder muscles may weaken until the damage heals.
After a shoulder dislocation is diagnosed through an X-ray, a reduction procedure may be necessary to restore the joint to its proper alignment. In many cases, a dislocated shoulder can be reduced without surgery (a closed reduction).
How Is Chronic Shoulder Instability Treated?
Shoulder instability can often be treated conservatively with activity modifications, physical therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In some cases, surgery may be considered to repair a torn or stretched ligament so that it can better hold the bones in place. At Premier Bone & Joint Centers, our board-certified, fellowship-trained surgeons perform minimally invasive shoulder surgery and other procedures as appropriate to repair damaged shoulder ligaments.
To learn more about shoulder instability symptoms and treatment options, contact Premier Bone & Joint Centers to request an appointment with a shoulder doctor at our satellite clinic in Gillette, WY, today.