Shoulder instability occurs when the joint of the shoulder is too loose and slides around in the socket. If this problem becomes severe, the shoulder can slip out of the socket, causing dislocation. Instability can also cause arthritis in the shoulder joint.
If you have instability, you may notice subluxation, which occurs when the shoulder slips out of place. You may feel like the shoulder is loose, or you may feel pain or a “dead arm” sensation. If this happens frequently, it can damage the nerves around the joint, and you may notice a numb spot just below your shoulder.
Shoulder Instability Causes
Instability often occurs after an injury or after shoulder dislocation. If the shoulder does become dislocated, it must be reduced, or placed back in the socket. However, even after readjusting the shoulder, the joint may remain unstable.
Injury isn’t the only cause of instability, though. Repeated shoulder motions may lead to instability over time. This often occurs to baseball pitchers, swimmers, and other athletes.
Genetic issues can also cause instability. If you have a connective tissue disorder, the ligaments can become too elastic, which prevents them from properly keeping the joints in place.
Shoulder Instability Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, your past injuries, and your current symptoms. He or she will also examine your shoulder to text the ligaments. You might have an X-ray to determine whether your shoulder was ever dislocated.
If you have instability, your doctor may refer you to an orthopaedic specialist. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can help you control the pain, but cortisone injections may be necessary if the pain and inflammation are severe. Physical or occupational therapy can help you strengthen the shoulder and retrain the muscles to keep your shoulder in place.
If these treatments aren’t enough, you may require surgery to solve the problem. Orthopaedic Specialists of Dickson TN can help you decide whether this is the best option for you. Your surgeon will tighten the shoulder joint capsule or repair a torn ligament to prevent dislocation from occurring again.