Shoulder instability is when the upper-end of the arm bone slides partly or fully out of the shoulder socket.
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This problem is often caused by repetitive trauma and overuse.
This problem is more common in men between the ages of 18 and 25. It is also more common in baseball pitchers.
Problems may be:
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your shoulder.
Images of your shoulder may be taken. This can be done with x-rays.
It may take 3 months to heal. The goals of treatment are to ease pain and swelling. This may include:
Some people may need surgery when other methods do not help. Surgery may be done to repair torn or stretched ligaments so they can hold the shoulder joint in place.
Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles may help prevent some injuries. This can be done with exercise.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Chronic shoulder instability. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated December 2013. Accessed December 9, 2019.
Desmeules F, Barry J, et al. Surgical interventions for post-traumatic anterior shoulder instability in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014;(5):CD011092.
Nassiri N, Eliasberg C, et al. Shoulder instability in the overhead athlete: A systematic review comparing arthroscopic and open stabilization procedures. 2015;3(2):suppl2325967115S00154.
Owens BD, Campbell SE, et al. Risk factors for anterior glenohumeral instability. Am J Sports Med. 2014;42(11):2591-2596.
Recurrent subluxation of shoulder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/recurrent-subluxation-of-shoulder. Updated August 21, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2019.
Woodward TW, Best TM. The painful shoulder: part I. Clinical evaluation. Am Fam Physician. 2000 May 15;61(10):3079-3088.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
Last Updated: 8/11/2020