Shoulder Instability / Dislocations

Restoring Stability to Your Shoulders

Shoulder dislocation happens when the ball of the “ball and socket” of the shoulder, is forced out of the shoulder socket, often caused by a trauma or injury. Once this has happened, many people experience recurrent dislocations – called chronic shoulder instability. 

Rochester Regional Health’s Shoulder Care Program is home to a team of experts who can provide acute care for shoulder dislocations and long-term planning for how to address chronic shoulder instability. 

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Shoulder Dislocation & Instability

Shoulder dislocations typically occur after an injury–be it while playing sports, a traumatic fall, or an accident. If a dislocation has occurred, the shoulder and arm typically feel as if they are locked with limited mobility in the shoulder. If a dislocation occurs, sometimes the humerus ball may reduce itself and pop back into place on its own. More commonly, the shoulder will need to be reduced in an emergency department. If you believe you have sustained a dislocation we would recommend being evaluated at your local Emergency Department.

Shoulder instability can also be caused by joint hyperlaxity. This occurs when a person has looser ligaments in their shoulders, increasing their risk for dislocation. Hyperlaxity is mainly a result of your genetic makeup and typically can be improved with strengthening treatments through physical therapy.

What Happens During a Shoulder Dislocation?  

When the head of the arm bone (the humerus) dislocates, the shoulder socket and ligaments in the front of the shoulder are often injured as well. You may also experience a torn labrum, the cartilage rim around the edge of the shoulder. Your shoulder injury should be evaluated by a professional promptly.

Chronic Shoulder Instability  

Common signs that you are experiencing chronic shoulder instability include:

  • Repeated shoulder dislocations
  • Repeated instances of the shoulder “giving out”
  • A feeling that your shoulder is loose or slipping in and out of the joint
  • Shoulder pain

If you suspect your shoulder is unstable, schedule a consultation a consultation

Shoulder Instability Treatment

After an evaluation, our Shoulder Care Program team will provide you with the best possible treatment plan, typically starting with non-surgical options including:

  • Physical therapy – to build strength and restore range of motion
  • Lifestyle changes – avoiding activities that make the shoulder painful
  • Pain control – through ice and heat and over-the-counter medication 

When non-surgical treatments are not successful, we may recommend surgery to treat your shoulder instability using:

  • Arthroscopy – a minimally invasive procedure used to repair the labrum and soft tissues in the shoulder and restore normal anatomy to the shoulder
  • Open surgery – some patients may require an open surgical procedure

diagram of the bones and joints involved in your shoulder
female doctor illustration

Get Back in Action 

Our board-certified orthopedic shoulder surgeons and skilled professionals will work with you to assess your shoulder condition, develop the right treatment plan that fits your lifestyle and guide you every step of the way.
Meet Our Team