What Treatment for Shoulder Instability Involves

If you have pain following a shoulder injury or experience a sensation like your shoulder is giving out or feels loose—as though it’s just dangling—you may have a shoulder dislocation. A shoulder dislocation occurs when the head of your humerus, the long upper arm bone, comes out of the shoulder socket due to overuse or trauma.

A shoulder that’s come out of its socket once is vulnerable to doing so repeatedly. Your tendons, ligaments, and muscles can become loose or torn, leaving your shoulder unstable and weak.

Dr. Benjamin Szerlip in Cedar Park, Texas can treat your shoulder injury with the least invasive strategies possible. But if these fail, you may need to resort to surgery. Contact our office today to book a consultation. 

Types of Shoulder Dislocations and Causes

Dislocations can be partial or complete. A partial dislocation describes when the head of the humerus just comes out of the socket a bit—but not full separation. Partial dislocations are sometimes referred to as subluxations. When the ball of the upper arm bone comes out of the socket entirely, it’s a complete dislocation.

Several circumstances can cause your shoulder dislocation. The first time you experience a dislocation, it’s usually due to trauma or injury. This first dislocation makes you vulnerable to future ones caused by repetitive strain, such as when you perform repetitive movements.

You may also have looser ligaments in your shoulder due to genetics. Activities such as tennis, swimming, or painting can cause repetitive movement that stretches out the ligaments. If you have a predisposition to an unstable shoulder due to accident or genetics and participate in repetitive movement, you compound your risk.

Rare cases of shoulder instability are due to a condition known as multidirectional instability. People without any genetic predisposition, prior injury, or repetitive strain develop looseness and dislocation in multiple directions. These patients are usually loose at various joints and may be termed as double-jointed.

Non-Invasive Treatments for Shoulder Instability

Non-invasive treatments are usually better, as they don’t involve long recoveries or risk of infection. You may need to give these treatments several months of effort to see if they make a difference in your function and pain levels.

These nonsurgical treatments include activity modification—such as minimizing overhead arm movements and physical therapy to help strengthen your shoulder muscles and emphasize shoulder control. Usually, you can perform these modifications and therapy exercises at home.

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen also help reduce inflammation and swelling.

Surgical Treatments for Surgical Instability

When non-surgical treatments don’t relieve pain or appropriately restore your function, Dr. Szerlip may recommend surgery. Surgery may involve minimally invasive outpatient shoulder arthroscopy—repairing the soft tissue in the shoulder using tiny instruments and small incisions. In severe cases, open surgery with large incisions and longer healing time may be required.

Following surgery, Dr. Szerlip may prescribe a rehabilitation program to help restore your shoulder’s function. While you may be placed in a sling temporarily following surgery for immediate healing, physical therapy exercises to regain ligament function are the crux of healing your shoulder. 

Get Help with Shoulder Instability Today

If you have symptoms of a shoulder dislocation, book a consultation with Dr. Benjamin Szerlip in Cedar Park, TX right away to proceed with therapy and healing. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your outcome. We have the skills and expertise to help you with your dislocated shoulder. 

Medically reviewed by Benjamin W. Szerlip DO