Shoulder Instability

Patient Stories

In high school I participated in many sports but my favorite two were soccer and track and field. During my high school career I experienced 3 shoulder dislocations but never looked into them. Upon being recruited to a collegiate track and field team, I went from being a hurdler and jumper to a heptathlete/pentathlete (7/5 event athlete). I had to… Read more “Isabella Bjorkeson”

Isabella Bjorkeson
Berkeley Heights, NJ

I separated my right shoulder in 1995, the Dr. said the only that would help was time (and painkillers temporarily). It got somewhat better with time. Then worse. By 2011, not being able to reach across my desk at work to answer the phone, I sought help. The Drs. out on eastern LI kept giving me cortisone shots, to no… Read more “Barbara Jean Smith”

Barbara Jean Smith
Laurel, MD

I came to HSS to determine whether or not I needed surgery. I saw two doctors and found that each felt differently as to whether or not I needed surgery. I also went for a third recommendation from a PT–a director at another well-known institution. Since I also know that surgeries in the past have always been difficult for me-I… Read more “Alicia Solan-Teglasi”

Alicia Solan-Teglasi
New York, NY



Your shoulder is a “ball-and-socket” joint, which is made of the humerus ( the ball) and glenoid fossa (socket). The glenoid is a shallow indentation that comes off your shoulder blade and holds the the head of the humerus. Since a glenoid is shallow, it is common for the humerus to be dislocated as a result of blunt force or if the shoulder joint is already compromised by instability, a dislocation can occur without trauma.

There are two categories of Shoulder instability:

Shoulder Subluxation: The shoulder is partially dislocated. When the shoulder is partially out of the socket.

Shoulder Dislocation: The humerus becomes completely removed from the glenoid. It is possible, and common for the labrum (cartilage that buffers your glenoid) to be torn during a complete dislocation. A single shoulder dislocation can lead to chronic shoulder instability.

Common causes for Shoulder Instability include:

  • Blunt trauma to the shoulder
  • A car accident
  • Sports Injury
  • Falling 

Symptoms of Shoulder Instability include:

  • Feelings of instability in the shoulder
  • Intense pain in and around the shoulder joint
  • Visual change in shoulder's appearance
  • Numbness in arm

Treatments for Shoulder Instability

Non-Surgical Treatment

If your shoulder instability is not severe (subluxations or only 1 dislocation), you will receive a generalized treatment plan that will include:

  • Rest
  • Shoulder stabilization and immobilization
  • Medication (oral and/or injections)
  • Rehabilitation

Surgical Treatments

Surgical FAQs