The shoulder is one of the most important joints in your arm, helping you lift, turn, and rotate your arm on a daily basis. When the shoulder ball is forced out of its socket, due to either joint overuse or traumatic injury, the shoulder is dislocated. When the shoulder repeatedly falls out of place, or feels loose with pain, the condition is known as “shoulder instability”.
So, what exactly are the causes of shoulder instability? Let’s take a closer look at the condition.
- Traumatic shoulder dislocation. Traumatic shoulder dislocation is the biggest cause of shoulder instability. Shoulder dislocations are common in contact sports, such as hockey, football and basketball, as well as in sports such as skiing, which frequently involve sudden falls. Once the head of humerus dislocates, the socket bone and ligaments in the front area of the shoulder are injured. A severe dislocation can then lead to further dislocations, and an unstable feeling in the injured shoulder.
- Repetitive strain. Some people who experience shoulder instability have never experienced a traumatic dislocation. Many of these patients have loose ligaments in their shoulders. These loose-feeling ligaments are often caused by repetitive overhead motion. Sports like swimming, tennis, and volleyball are sports which require constant overhead movement of the arms, which can stretch the shoulder ligaments. This overuse can further loosen the ligaments and make it harder for the shoulder to maintain stability, making the shoulder feel extremely weak and painful.
- Multidirectional instability. Rarely, shoulder instability occurs in patients who have no history of injury at all. Multidirectional instability occurs when the shoulder joint is loose within the socket, causing the shoulder to dislocate in multiple directions, causing severe pains throughout the joint. This most commonly occurs in patients who are double-jointed, or who have naturally loose ligaments throughout their body.
Shoulder instability is first treated with non-surgical treatments, such as physical therapy and medications to relieve pain and swelling. However, if non-surgical treatments do not resolve the issues of instability in the shoulder, surgical intervention may be necessary, followed by rehabilitation.