Shoulder instability

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Many athletes are familiar with shoulder instability. Football, baseball, volleyball, golf and lacrosse players who repeatedly utilize their shoulder in an arching, overhead motion are most susceptible to shoulder instability. Those who swim and lift weights regularly are also prone to developing chronic shoulder instability.

No matter how our OrthoAspen patients end up with shoulder instability, they can rest assured knowing that our elite-grade specialists are dedicated to finding the safest and most effective treatment method available. It’s our goal to return our Aspen area residents back to the active lifestyles they enjoy.

Causes & Symptoms

Shoulder instability results from the upper arm bone being forced from the shoulder socket. In addition to occurring from repeated overhead sports, shoulder instability can also be a result of:

  • Injury or trauma to the shoulder (such as a motor vehicle accident)
  • A fall that takes place on an outstretched hand
  • Loose shoulder ligaments or an enlarged capsule

Once a shoulder has been dislocated or sprained it can become even more susceptible to chronic shoulder instability. When shoulder instability is present, an individual may experience symptoms such as:

  • Pain that results from specific movements of the shoulder
  • Popping or grinding sounds (either heard or felt)
  • Swelling and bruising of the shoulder
  • Visible deformity with or without the loss of function of the shoulder
  • Numbness or even paralysis (occurs below the dislocation due to pressure on the nerves and blood vessels)

To determine the presence of shoulder instability, your OrthoAspen physician will conduct a physical examination, go over past and current medical information and obtain diagnostic tests if necessary.


Whenever possible, our OrthoAspen Shoulder & Elbow team will try to apply conservative treatment methods to address the symptoms of shoulder instability. The goal of non-surgical treatment for shoulder instability is to restore stability, strength and a full range of motion and may include the following measures:

  • Closed reduction
    Following a dislocation, your surgeon can often manipulate the shoulder joint. Usually, under anesthesia, the shoulder is realigned into proper position.
  • Medications
    Over-the-counter pain medications and NSAID’s can help reduce pain and swelling. Steroidal injections may also be administered to decrease swelling.
  • Rest
    The injured shoulder should be rested and activities that require overhead motion avoided. Your OrthoAspen physician may also recommend wearing a sling for up to two weeks to facilitate healing.
  • Ice
    Ice packs can be applied to the affected area for 20 minutes every hour to help alleviate symptoms.

When conservative treatment methods don’t achieve the desired outcome to relieve symptoms, your OrthoAspen orthopedic specialist may suggest surgery.

Surgical treatment options for shoulder instability include shoulder stabilization surgery. This procedure is performed to improve the stability and function to the shoulder joint and prevent any recurrent dislocations. It can be performed arthroscopically, depending on the specific situation. Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure requiring small incisions, in which a small flexible tube (arthroscopy) with a light and video camera at the end, is inserted into a joint. This innovative tool is used to evaluate and treat shoulder instability accordingly.

The benefits of arthroscopy compared to open shoulder surgery are smaller incisions, minimal soft tissue trauma and less pain leading to faster recovery.

Our ultimate goal at OrthoAspen is to ensure your safety, comfort and successful recovery. If you’re concerned that you may be experiencing shoulder instability, simply, click here to start the conversation, or call us at 970-544-1289 to schedule a visit.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400