What is shoulder instability?

Feb 20, 2023

The shoulder is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body. Also known as the glenohumeral joint, it is a ball and socket joint made up of the humerus (arm bone) and the glenoid cavity (fossa) of the scapula (shoulder blade). It is one of the most mobile joints in the body however, this also means that pain and injury is common!

Shoulder instability can result in shoulder dislocation (separation of the humerus head from the socker), subluxation (partial separation of the humerus from the socker) and labral injuries (tears/detached). Shoulder dislocation is usually caused by a direct trauma that forces the humeral head out of the socket. A dislocation is when the head of the humerus slips out of the shoulder socket. Shoulder dislocations may occur repeatedly which can lead to the capsule, ligaments or labrum being stretched, torn or detached from the bone. Patients can also experience a feeling of instability without true dislocation occurring at each event. Repeated dislocation can cause increased wear in the shoulder joint and reconstruction in usually recommended.

How do shoulder dislocations/subluxations occur?

The most common mechanism of injury include the tackling of an opponent with the arm outstretched, gathering possession overhead, falling onto an outstretched arm, falling onto a bent elbow, scoring a try (Rugby). Patients with chronic instability will often describe day to day activities causing the shoulder to ‘slip out’ such as rolling over in bed, putting on a jumper etc.

What are the symptoms of  shoulder instability

Patients often describe a popping sensation in addition to this patients will experience pain and discomfort at the time of injury. Patients also describe a sense of instability or looseness of the shoulder joint. Some may also describe a sensation of the shoulder joint slipping forward or backwards

What should I do if I have sustained a shoulder dislocation or experience shoulder instability?

If you have sustained a shoulder dislocation injury or suffer with repeated instability events please contact our office to set up a consultation with Prof. Moran to discuss your treatment options. We will also require a letter from your GP/Physiotherapist and MRI report (if available). We may refer for a special MRI with dye (MRArthrogram) to assess the shoulder in more detail however, we will arrange this for you if needed.

Our website has a hive of information about shoulder injuries and be sure to keep up to date with our latest blogs.