Your shoulder joint is very flexible, offering much more range of motion than other large joints in the body like your knee or hip, but this increased flexibility comes at the cost of decreased stability. There are a number of different tissues that help to hold your shoulder joint in place, but if they become injured as a result of chronic or acute stress, they can lose their ability to stabilize the shoulder joint, leading to what’s known as shoulder instability. In today’s blog, we talk a little about the causes of shoulder instability and how you can help regain stability in your shoulder joint.
Causes Of Shoulder Instability
We touched on this a little in the intro, but shoulder instability tends to occur when the lining of the shoulder joint (capsule), the supportive ligaments or your labrum become stretched, torn or otherwise damaged. These supportive tissues help to hold the ball of the shoulder joint in place, but when they are damaged, your humeral head can become loose within the socket. This can lead to the ball of the joint becoming partially or completely dislocated from the socket.
Shoulder instability can make it more likely that you’ll suffer shoulder dislocations with certain movements or actions, but your shoulder doesn’t need to dislocate for instability to cause uncomfortable symptoms. Many people with shoulder instability say that their shoulder feels loose, unstable or feels like it could “give way” if asked to perform certain actions. Instability can also make these movements painful and limit your comfortable range of motion.
Instability is typically the result of acute or chronic trauma to the shoulder joint. Damage to the supportive tissues that hold the shoulder joint in place can happen as a result of bracing yourself for impact during a fall, a traumatic collision in athletics or a car accident, or from repetitive motions that you might perform during certain sports, like pitching in baseball, serving in tennis or swinging a golf club.
Regaining Stability In Your Shoulder Joint
There are a number of ways you can work to regain stability in your shoulder joint if you’ve been diagnosed with shoulder instability. Here are some of the more common techniques.
- Rest – Give yourself a break from certain activities that are hard on the shoulder for a while. Stay away from overhead actions in athletics, and don’t perform any lifts or similar actions at the work site. Rest alone will not likely help the injured tissues heal, but it can help to prevent further damage, which is very important at a time when your shoulder is in a weakened state.
- Physical Therapy – Pairing rest with physical therapy is a great way to regain stability and function in your shoulder joint. Connect with a physical therapist, undergo a baseline assessment and begin a PT routine both in clinic and at-home to help strengthen your supportive shoulder muscles and ligaments over the next few weeks. Physical therapy will safely help you regain stability without putting you at risk of overloading the area and doing more damage. The team at OrthoRehab Specialists can help set you up with an in-clinic routine and some home-based exercises to restore shoulder stability.
- Bracing – Bracing can help to add some stability to the joint while you’re working to strengthen it with other active modalities. Your physical therapist can help set you up with a protective brace if they believe it would be helpful during your rehab.
- Surgery – If physical therapy and activity modifications haven’t helped to restore stability, or you don’t want to stop doing the activities you love with a stronger but still partially unstable shoulder, surgery may be the best bet. Your surgeon will artificially strengthen your supportive shoulder tissues, and then you’ll follow through with weeks of physical therapy to help stabilize and strengthen the area.
Whether you follow conservative or operative means, odds are physical therapy is in your future if you’re dealing with shoulder instability. For more information, or for help treating your shoulder issue, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today.
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