Dislocation / Instability

What is it?

The humerus (ball) and the glenoid (socket) are stabilized by the capsule, labrum, and rotator cuff. The shoulder may dislocate if these tissues are torn during an injury.

What are the symptoms?

After a forceful injury to the shoulder, the joint may dislocate anteriorly or posteriorly. With a dislocation, the shoulder is usually extremely painful and has very limited motion. Muscle relaxation is often required to reduce the shoulder back into the joint. You should immediately call your doctor for instructions or go to the ER when a severe injury is suspected.

How is it evaluated?

Along with a thorough history and physical, shoulder X-rays often confirm the diagnosis. They can also help identify fractures that may have occurred at the same time. An MRI may be ordered to further evaluate the damage to the capsule, labrum, and rotator cuff. A CT scan may be ordered if a fracture is seen or suspected.

How is it treated?

In some cases, immobilization and subsequent therapy are sufficient to restore stability and function to the shoulder joint. An arthroscopy or an open surgery may be recommended. Postoperatively, it is very important to protect the shoulder to allow tissue healing. A graduated therapy program is then implemented.