Are You a Candidate for Shoulder Instability Surgery?

You’ve had a traumatic shoulder injury, maybe from getting tackled while playing football.  Perhaps you lost your balance while taking a walk and fell hard on the sidewalk. If you felt your shoulder come loose from its socket, you might have a shoulder instability problem. 

Shoulder instability isn’t always the result of trauma, however. In a number of sports — baseball, softball, tennis, and volleyball, to name a few — where you use overhead motions repeatedly, you’re more prone to shoulder instability as an overuse injury

Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons at The Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, P.A. treat many cases of shoulder instability and other orthopedic injuries and conditions. Members of our award-winning team have consistently been voted “top doctor” and “top surgeon.” 

Your shoulder joint has the distinction of being the most moveable joint in your body. Think about how many ways you can use it. 

You can lift your arms straight up, to the side, or backward, thanks to your shoulder joint. You can rotate your arms and turn them in a number of directions. Because of this greater range of motion, however, your shoulder is more susceptible to dislocation than other joints. 

The following are shoulder injuries that result in instability. Your physician determines the degree of instability and the proper treatment for it through a variety of tests.  

Shoulder dislocation 

The large bone that goes from your shoulder to your elbow is called the humerus. Its “head” lies in your shoulder socket. When the head slips out of the socket through sudden force or overuse, you’ve dislocated your shoulder, causing instability. 

You can have a partial dislocation when your shoulder slides part of the way in and out of the socket; this is also called subluxation. You have bruising, swelling, and pain with these injuries. 

Tear in shoulder labrum 

Tough cartilage that is attached to your shoulder socket helps to keep the “ball” of your shoulder, which is the head of your humerus bone, in the socket. 

This cartilage, called the labrum, can tear as a result of the aging process, or from overuse or trauma to the joint. The tear can cause shoulder instability


Some peoples’ joints are naturally looser, which makes them more prone to shoulder instability injuries. The shoulder joints can be so lax that people can dislocate the joint intentionally.


If you’re in significant pain, your physician may prescribe a pain reliever instead of telling you to rely on over-the-counter medications. You can use ice on and off for several days to calm the swelling. 

Your doctor might also have you wear a sling or a brace to prevent further injury from moving the shoulder too much. 

Once your inflammation has subsided, you can begin physical therapy, such as gentle range-of-motion exercises. You follow up with strengthening exercises as your condition improves. 

If your shoulder is dislocated, you may also have ligament and labral tears. The ligaments help keep the joint in place and attach to the labrum at several points. 

Even if your shoulder is moved back into place after a dislocation, your ligaments and labrum can still be stretched and remain loose. You’re at increased risk of additional partial or full dislocations.  

If the shoulder is still loose after physical therapy, your doctor is likely to recommend surgery, but it depends on your age, physical exercise and movement needs, and the condition of your shoulder

If you’re an older adult and your shoulder doesn’t hurt, you and your doctor may decide you don’t need surgery right now. You may be able to manage after physical therapy. However, if you’re an active athlete and want to get back in the game, your shoulder requires surgery. 

Call our Toms River, New Jersey, office at 732-242-7827 today or book an appointment online at any time. You can also send a message to our team at The Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, P.A. here on our website for a shoulder injury or any of your orthopedic needs. 

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