Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Chronic Shoulder Instability

Chronic Shoulder Instability is a condition where the head or top of the arm bone (humerus) repeatedly slips out of the shoulder socket (glenoid).

Common Symptoms

  • Pain caused by shoulder injury
  • Repeated shoulder dislocations or subluxations (partial dislocations)
  • Persistent sensation of the shoulder feeling loose or slipping in and out of the joint
  • Shoulder weakness, especially during activity
  • Decreased range of motion

Cause & Anatomy

Causes of Chronic Shoulder Instability:

  • Severe trauma or injury causing an initial shoulder dislocation that damages the ligaments and capsule
  • Repetitive overhead motions like throwing that loosen the shoulder capsule over time
  • Genetic condition of loose ligaments (hyperlaxity) leading to instability without injury

Anatomy of Chronic Shoulder Instability:

  • Humerus (upper arm bone)
  • Glenoid (shallow socket in the shoulder blade)
  • Shoulder capsule and ligaments that keep the humerus centered in the glenoid
  • Rotator cuff and other shoulder muscles that dynamically stabilize the joint


  • Physical exam to check for looseness, weakness, range of motion
  • Imaging tests like MRI or CT scan, sometimes with contrast dye injection (arthrogram)
  • Examination under anesthesia followed by arthroscopy


Strengthening shoulder muscles and improving motor control through physical therapy can help prevent instability, especially after an initial dislocation.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Activity modification, anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve control


Surgical (if nonsurgical treatment fails):

  • Arthroscopic or open repair of torn ligaments and capsule to stabilize the joint

Post Surgical Rehabilitation

  • Immobilization with a sling for several weeks
  • Physical therapy to regain range of motion and prevent scarring
  • Gradually progressing to strengthening exercises as healing allows
  • Commitment to rehab is crucial for a successful outcome

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