The shoulder joint has the widest range of motion in the human body, but this means that it is also the most prone to becoming unstable. If you have experienced a shoulder dislocation or your shoulder joint frequently feels weak or gives out, you likely have a problem with shoulder instability. While this condition can be painful and difficult to deal with, it is treatable with a variety of different interventions.
To learn more about this condition and if Dr. Brian Kelly may be able to help improve your symptoms, read below.
Understanding the Shoulder Joint
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The 'ball' is the humeral head: the top part of the humerus, or upper arm bone. The humeral head fits into the shoulder 'socket': the cavity in the shoulder blade, called the glenoid. The humeral head and glenoid are held together by ligaments, cartilage, muscles, and tendons that provide the shoulder a wide range of motion. The downside of this range of motion is that it is easy for the shoulder joint to become unstable.
What is Shoulder Instability?
In short, shoulder instability is when your shoulder is prone to becoming fully or partially dislocated because it is not properly held into place by the shoulder muscle and ligament system. The ball of the shoulder may partially shift out of its correct position in what is called a subluxation. It may also become fully dislocated from the socket, which usually happens during an injury.
After the shoulder joint is subluxed or dislocated once, it is more vulnerable to further injury. For this reason, shoulder instability often becomes a chronic condition. An initial injury can lead to recurrent dislocations, pain, and feelings of weakness or instability of the shoulder.
Some shoulder instability symptoms include:
- Pain with movement
- Swelling or bruising
- Hearing or feeling popping or grinding sounds
- Feelings of weakness or the shoulder 'giving out'
How Does It Happen?
A full dislocation of the shoulder is often caused by a sudden impact injury. On the other hand, subluxation is often the result of weakened muscles, ligaments, or cartilage that are damaged over time. However, both of these injuries can either be caused by sudden trauma or develop gradually. Other common conditions that lead to shoulder instability are loose or torn ligaments and rotator cuff injuries or weakness.
There are 3 main types of shoulder instability. These include the following:
Anterior InstabilityAnterior shoulder instability occurs most often in young adults and those who play contact sports. It is also by far the most common type of instability. It happens when trauma is inflicted while the arm is in abduction (raised to the side) and external rotation (with the hand above the shoulder level).
Posterior InstabilityPosterior shoulder instability is much less common and more difficult to diagnose. It can happen when trauma is inflicted while the arm is raised in front of the body or as a result of muscle contractions, like those that result from electric shock or seizures.
Multidirectional InstabilityShoulder instability is not always the result of a sudden injury; it can also be caused by genetic factors or your body's natural anatomy. Multidirectional shoulder instability is often caused by hyperlaxity, or naturally looser shoulder ligaments. This type of instability can also be caused by torn or stretched ligaments from repeated overhead motions.
Treating Shoulder Instability
To diagnose shoulder instability, your physician will collect information about your symptoms and medical history. They will also perform a physical examination in which they will test the joint's range of motion and stability. In some cases, an x-ray or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be necessary.
To treat shoulder instability, your physician will likely start with conservative treatments. These non-surgical interventions include rest, ice, medications, and possibly physical therapy to relieve pain.
If these conservative shoulder instability treatments do not improve your condition, surgery may be required. After surgical treatment, physical therapy will probably be recommended to aid in the healing process and restore mobility and strength to your shoulder.
Visit Dr. Brian Kelly
Dr. Brian Kelly provides Pittsburgh, PA with comprehensive treatment for shoulder instability and other shoulder, elbow, and knee injuries. With locations in Moon Township and Sewickley, the offices of Dr. Kelly are here to provide you with treatment from an experienced orthopaedic surgeon who is passionate about helping you get back in the game.
Chronic shoulder instability can be a painful and unpredictable hindrance in your daily life. Luckily, this condition can be fixed. If you are experiencing the symptoms of shoulder instability (or any shoulder pain), don't hesitate to give Dr. Brian Kelly a call.
Dr. Brian Kelly, MD. is an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine doctor experienced in treating a variety of injuries. Dr. Kelly and his expert team of physicians will make sure that you get the treatment you need. If you have sustained an orthopaedic injury, schedule an appointment at the offices of Dr. Kelly today.