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Shoulder Instability

Shoulder Instability

Shoulder instability refers to a condition where the shoulder joint is not able to maintain its normal position and can dislocate or partially dislocate, which can cause pain and limit the shoulder's ability to move.




The shoulder joint is a complex joint, and there are several important structures that provide stability to the shoulder, including the labrum (a rim of cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint), the capsule (a tissue that surrounds and supports the joint), and the rotator cuff (a group of muscles and tendons that support the shoulder and help to lift the arm).




The most common mechanism of injury for shoulder dislocation is a traumatic event, such as a fall or a blow to the shoulder. During a shoulder dislocation, the humeral head (the ball at the top of the arm bone) is forced out of the shoulder socket, which can cause damage to the surrounding structures.

The most common structures injured during shoulder dislocation are the labrum and the capsule. These injuries can be treated with a combination of physical therapy, pain management, and, in some cases, surgery.


Physical therapy for shoulder instability aims to improve the strength, stability, and range of motion of the shoulder joint. The specific exercises and techniques used will depend on the type and severity of the shoulder instability.

Physical therapy often consists of Strengthening the muscles that support the shoulder joint, which can help improve its stability. Your physical therapist may recommend exercises that target the rotator cuff, scapular stabilizers, and other muscles in the shoulder girdle.

Overall, the goal of therapy for shoulder instability is to help you regain full function and reduce the risk of future injury. Your physical therapist will develop a customized treatment plan based on your specific needs and goals.  If there is persistent instability despite physical therapy, surgery is often the next option.



There are many types of surgery for shoulder instability, the two most often described are; arthroscopic shoulder labral repair surgery and open coracoid transfer shoulder surgery.

Arthroscopic shoulder labral repair surgery involves the use of a small camera and instruments inserted through small incisions in the shoulder to repair the labrum and other damaged structures. This type of surgery is less invasive than open surgery and typically has a shorter recovery time.

Open coracoid transfer shoulder surgery involves making a larger incision in the shoulder and transferring a small piece of bone (the coracoid) to the front of the shoulder joint to provide additional stability. This type of surgery is more invasive than arthroscopic surgery and typically has a longer recovery time.  The coracoid transfer is reserved for failure of the arthroscopic procedures, or in patients with glenoid (socket) bone loss.

After surgery, recovery typically involves a period of rest and immobilization, followed by physical therapy to help regain strength and range of motion in the shoulder. The length of the recovery period will depend on the type and extent of surgery, as well as the individual's overall health and other factors.  Typical recovery can range from 3-6 months.

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