Shoulder Instability

Learn about the symptoms of shoulder instability.

Shoulder Instability

Our Shoulder and Elbow Specialists

Stephen R. Brown, MD

Sports Medicine,
Orthopedic Surgery

Brian P. Conroy, MD

Sports Medicine,
Orthopedic Surgery

Samuel Dubrow, MD

Orthopedic Surgery,
Orthopedic Surgery - Upper Extremity

Kellen L. Huston, MD

Sports Medicine,
Orthopedic Surgery

What is Shoulder Instability?

According to Dr. Matthew Dilisio, Orthopedic Surgeon for CHI Health Clinic, shoulder instability is when the ball of the shoulder comes out of the socket. There are two main types. The first kind is called atraumatic shoulder instability - that’s where the ligaments are loose and the shoulder may shift. That responds well to physical therapy.

The second type is called traumatic instability - that’s more related to sports. That’s where a severe injury dislocates the ball from the socket and often there’s a ligament tear. Sometimes we need to repair the ligament back down to the bone to restore stability to the shoulder and get the patient back to sports.

What are the symptoms of shoulder instability?

The symptoms of shoulder instability can be pain. Usually it’s a subtle shifting of the shoulder. Often it occurs with heavy activity like sports. Sometimes the symptoms are severe enough where the patient can have the shoulder shift during sleep. When it’s that severe, we recommend an evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon.

How is should instability treated?

Atraumatic shoulder instability responds well to conservative treatment in which we strengthen the muscles around the shoulder. Traumatic shoulder instability that results from a ligament tear, often requires operative intervention. We will fix the ligament with minimally invasive surgery done with a camera.

Biceps Tendon Surgery (Biceps Tenodesis)

Biceps tendon injuries cause rotational deficits to the shoulder, which means there is pain and limited motion when reaching behind your back, throwing a ball, dressing yourself, and other similar activities. These are all rotational type motions. Most people hear "biceps tendon injury" and immediately think of the biceps curl, but biceps tendon injuries do not affect your ability to perform a biceps curl, that is the biceps muscle. 

Biceps tendon tears and injuries cause pain with rotation to the shoulder. This can be seen in athletes, tennis players, volleyball players, throwers, baseball players as well as weight lifters and weekend warriors. Sometimes when conservative treatments such as rest, anti-inflammatory medications, therapy and cortisone injections fail, surgery may be needed.

Biceps Tendon surgery is ambulatory, meaning the patient goes home after surgery and the procedure takes about 15 minutes to perform. Recovery is fast, and patients may use their arm the day following surgery to perform activities of daily living. Patients regain near full motion by 3-6 weeks following surgery.