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The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. It is the most mobile joint in your body. This greater range of motion, however, can predispose you to shoulder instability. Shoulder instability occurs when the head, or ball, of the upper arm bone is forced out of the shoulder socket. This can happen as a result of a sudden injury or from repetitive overhead activity related to sport (e.g. volleyball, tennis) or work. Once a shoulder has dislocated, it is vulnerable to repeat episodes. In some patients, the shoulder can become unstable without a history of injury or repetitive strain. These patients have naturally loose ligaments throughout the body and may say they are “double-jointed”. Often, their shoulder is unstable in more than one direction.
Chronic shoulder instability is often first treated with non-surgical options. If these options do not relieve the pain and instability, surgery may be needed. It often takes several months of non-surgical treatment before you can tell how well it is working. Non-surgical treatment typically includes:
You must stay in a protected range of motion where your shoulder feels stable. Avoid activities, positions and “trick movements” that promote instability. This depends on the direction of instability.
I. Anterior instability (most common)
II. Posterior instability
Your therapist will design a home-based exercise program for your shoulder. Your rehabilitation program should include:
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