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Overcoming Shoulder Instability

Shoulder instability is when the (ball) dislocates from the glendoid (socket). When the shoulder is unstable, the joint may dislocate and relocate quickly (sublux) or dislocate completely.

Some movements that can be problematic with shoulder instability include lifting overhead, reaching behind the back, and bearing weight through the shoulder. In addition, sleeping on the shoulder might be painful as well.

The condition can be due to laxity of the joint capsule, weakness of shoulder muscles, or a serious injury such as a fall or other type of accident.

When shoulder dislocations that are due to a serious injury, there is a possibility of a labrum tear. In addition, an injury to the ball called a Hill-Sach’s lesion may also be present. There are special clinical tests that can be performed to determine the severity of the injury.  If the tear is severe, surgical repair may be required to prevent recurrent dislocations.  However, in the absence of a severe injury, most unstable shoulders respond well to rehabilitation.

In order to overcome an unstable shoulder, the first common-sense recommendation is to take a short break from any activity that is reproducing the instability. This allows pain and irritation to settle down.  If pain is stubborn, hands-on therapy can be performed to achieve faster relief.  Once pain is manageable, you can address the root causes of your shoulder instability.

The best way to know what is contributing to shoulder instability is to have an assessment performed.  The rotator cuff, serratus anterior, and the latissimus dorsi muscles are often weak with shoulder instability.  In addition, imbalances at the trunk and lower body may lead to compensations that result in shoulder instability.  If you have weakness in any of these muscle groups, learning how to activate and generate tension is key.  Some beginner exercises include shoulder packing with a band, side-lying shoulder rotation, and serratus punches.  These movements can be found in our video library. 

Once you know how to generate tension,  the next step is to develop strength through weight-bearing exercises.  Pushing and pulling movements like ring rows and incline push-ups are good mid-level exercises.  Advanced movements like Turkish Get-ups will build a rock-solid shoulder.

When addressed with a specialized physical therapy program, overcoming shoulder instability is a straight forward process.  However, ignoring pain and engaging in repetitive activity can create a more serious shoulder condition.  If you have concerns about shoulder instability, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to be a resource for you.

We offer a free guide on relieving shoulder pain that can give you further insight into shoulder problems and help kickstart your recovery.

If you want help, you can request a shoulder consultation with one of our specialists.  This is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your shoulder pain, and foster confidence that we can help you.  If you’re certain that we’re a good fit to work together, you can decide on the next step.

If you’re in pain but unsure about what you should do, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.

Physical Therapist Dr. Tim Varghese

Dr. Tim Varghese

Movement Solutions

"We Help Active Adults, Ages 40-60+ Overcome Pain And Injuries And Get Back To Their Favorite Activities Without Unnecessary Medications, Injections, Or Surgeries."