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Shoulder Instability

Shoulder instability occurs when the top of the upper arm bone has either partially or fully slipped out of the joint socket (dislocated) multiple times. The muscles, ligaments, and tendons that hold the shoulder in place become loose and unstable. Injury and repetitive motion strain (like swimming and volleyball) are often causes.

Diagnosing Shoulder Instability

Physical Exam

Your physician will ask you a series of questions and is likely to do a physical exam. The physical exam will including examining any specific areas of concern, especially as they relate to the reason for your visit to the office.

X-Rays

A form of electromagnetic radiation with very high frequency and energy. X-rays are used to examine and make images of things such as the bones and organs inside the body.

MRI

This test uses a magnetic field, radiofrequency pulses, and a computer to produce detailed images of body structures in multiple places. You may be injected with a contrast agent for better imaging, and you will most likely lie on a moving table as pictures are taken. MRI is a more detailed tool than x-ray and ultrasound and for certain organs or areas of the body, it provides better images than CT. MRI may not be recommended if you have a pacemaker or other metal implants.

Treatments for Shoulder Instability

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

A class of medications, including but not limited to aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen, that are used for reducing pain and redness, swelling, and heat (inflammation) in arthritis and other painful inflammatory disorders.

Physical Therapy

Sometimes referred to simply as "PT," this is a type of rehabilitative treatment that uses specially designed exercises and equipment to help patients preserve, regain, or improve their physical abilities following injury, disability, disease, or surgery. Physical therapy can include therapeutic exercise, massage, assistive devices, and patient education and training.

Activity Modification

Physicians may prescribe general lifestyle changes to a patient, in order to help relieve the symptoms of their condition and improve their overall physical function and well-being. Depending on the medical condition being treated, activity modification may include: decreasing or increasing one's level of physical activity; added rest; beginning a new activity or exercise program; changing sleep habits; or modifying one's physical environment at home, in their vehicle, or at work.

Surgery for Shoulder Instability

Surgery is often necessary to repair torn or stretched ligaments so that they are better able to hold the shoulder joint in place. For patients with shoulder instability, surgical options include arthroscopy (a minimally invasive technique involving pencil-thin surgical tools) and traditional open surgery. The patient's doctor will discuss the best option for their individual case.

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