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Shoulder Instability/Dislocation

A dislocated shoulder occurs when the upper arm (humerus) is forced out of the shoulder socket (glenoid), often due to a traumatic injury or overuse. This condition can lead to pain, swelling, weakness, visible deformity, and an inability to move the joint. Recurrent dislocations can cause chronic instability, weakening the surrounding muscles and ligaments, and making the shoulder more prone to future dislocations. Treatment typically involves immobilization, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery to repair or tighten the ligaments.

typical causes:

This injury is typically caused by a significant force that separates the shoulder joint’s ball from its socket. This force often results from traumatic injuries such as falls, sports injuries, or direct blows to the area. Sports that involve overhead motion, like volleyball, baseball, or swimming, can also lead to instability through repetitive strain and wear on the stabilizing structures in the shoulder. Additionally, genetic factors may predispose individuals to ligamentous laxity, or looseness, increasing the risk of dislocation. Over time, repeated dislocations can lead to chronic instability, making the shoulder more susceptible to injury even during normal activities.

how physical therapy can help:

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery and prevention of shoulder dislocations or instability by strengthening the muscles around the shoulder, enhancing joint stability, and increasing range of motion. Additionally, physical therapy aids in pain management and can expedite the return to pre-injury levels of activity, helping individuals regain full function of the shoulder. Recurring dislocations or subluxations may cause further injury to surrounding tissues which decreases the stability of the joint. Getting started on a treatment plan can help reduce the risk of further injury by restoring the health of surrounding tissues and improving the stability of the joint.

Ready to get moving? Contact us today to schedule an assessment.


Individuals who experience shoulder dislocations or subluxations should visit with a physical therapist or other medical professional. Further assessment is likely required to determine the extent of the injury. Some individuals may need to be immobilized for an extended period of time to allow for healing of the surrounding tissue. Treatment plans are individualized based on the severity of the injury and presentation of the shoulder. Seeking advice early can help reduce the chance of reinjury and restore the stability of the joint. 

Give us a call to schedule a consultation with one of our physical therapists and get started on the path to restoring the stability and function of your shoulder! 


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