What keeps my shoulder stable?

The shoulder relies on two types of stabilizers to achieve stability. First, the rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulder while moving and are referred to as dynamic stabilizers. In a healthy shoulder these muscles and tendons move the shoulder while keeping the joint surfaces in close contact.

The second type of shoulder stabilizer, the ligaments and joint capsule, are referred to as the static stabilizers. When the shoulder is stretched to the end of the normal range of motion, these tissues act as a counter force and prevent the joint from stretching further. However, there is a limit to the amount of force a ligament can withstand. If that limit is surpassed, the ligament can be either stretched or torn.

What are the symptoms of shoulder instability?

Common symptoms of chronic shoulder instability include:

  •  A sense that the shoulder is “coming-out of socket” in certain positions
  • Generalized weakness of the shoulder
  • Pain when performing specific activities
  • Painful clicking and popping
  • Occasional numbness and tingling in the affected extremity

How is shoulder instability diagnosed?

A discussion of your symptoms, a physical examination, and X-rays are useful for a diagnosis. Your specialist may recommend having an MRI scan as well.

How is shoulder instability treated?

Treatment depends largely on the instability of your shoulder and how it affects day-to-day activities. Physical therapy may be sufficient to help you gain strength in the group of muscles and tendons that acts to stabilize the shoulder. In more severe cases, surgical repair may provide the most effective outcome.

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