Shoulder instability develops when your muscles and ligaments are not strong enough to hold the shoulder bones securely in the socket. This can lead to multiple painful shoulder dislocations or prevent you from using the shoulder or lifting your arm. Shoulder instability can develop as a result of:
- Previous shoulder dislocations: The more often you experience shoulder dislocations, the less stable your shoulder becomes.
- Loose ligaments: Ligaments are the tissues that bind bones together. Shoulder ligaments can either be naturally loose or become loose over time, especially if you repeatedly bring your arm up over your head, as in swimming or tennis.
Shoulder Instability Care at MedStar Georgetown
Our goal at Georgetown University Hospital is to treat and strengthen your shoulder and get you back to your regular routine as quickly and easily as possible. Our orthopedic surgeons [LINK TO: Doctors] are fellowship trained and focus exclusively on shoulder treatment and surgery.
We spend time with you and your family to explain the details of your condition and address all of your concerns. If you need surgery, we offer the most advanced methods available. We specialize in minimally invasive and arthroscopic surgical techniques, which use smaller incisions to precisely access the damaged part of your shoulder. You heal more quickly and with less pain with these advanced techniques than with traditional surgery. We also specialize treating patients whose previous surgeries to treat shoulder instability have failed.
Shoulder Instability Diagnosis
The orthopedists at Georgetown are highly skilled in diagnosing shoulder instability. Our initial exam will generally include:
- Taking your medical history – This includes asking questions about previous shoulder injuries and dislocations. It can also include questions about whether you have other medical problems, and if you take any medications.
- Physical exam – The orthopedist will examine your shoulder and arm to evaluate your pain and sensitivity, strength, range of motion.
- Imaging tests – Your orthopedist may want to examine the bones and joints themselves using a variety of imaging techniques, including:
- X-ray, which can help determine if you have any broken bones
- MRI, which uses powerful magnets and computer technology to create a picture of your muscles, tissues, and nerves to show if you have any tissue damage.
Shoulder Instability Treatment
Most cases of shoulder instability respond well to conservative treatment involving intensive rehabilitation exercises and physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that help hold the shoulder in place. Additionally, our specialists also recommend taking non-prescription pain and anti-inflammatory medication and avoiding activities that have previous resulted in shoulder dislocations.
In cases where nonsurgical methods are unsuccessful, surgical options are available to help regain shoulder function, including: