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Dealing with Chronic Shoulder Instability and Dislocation

Shoulder injuries can be quite problematic and are debilitating, to say the least. Any shoulder injury can force you to alter your day to day life. But, it’s chronic conditions that may be the most frustrating. Ongoing shoulder instability can mean that you’re dealing with dislocated shoulders more often than anyone should. One dislocated shoulder from an injury is bad enough. To deal with it with any regularity can be unbearable. Dislocated shoulder surgery may be something that you’re considering or you’ve been told you would benefit from surgery but would like a second opinion. Chronic instability can be addressed with different kinds of surgeries, so it’s important to discuss what your options are with an expert surgeon. Here is what you need to know about dislocated shoulders.


What is a dislocated shoulder?

A dislocation of the shoulder occurs when the top of the upper arm bone is forced out of the shoulder socket. The symptoms of a dislocated shoulder are distinct. You will see the dislocation in the skin, with the shoulder area looking out of place and generally “off.” Swelling and bruising will appear quickly following the dislocation. Of course, the most immediate symptom you’ll be aware of is the intense pain and inability to move your shoulder. A dislocated shoulder is impossible to ignore and requires medical attention right away. Unfortunately, some people are susceptible to dislocating their shoulders with regularity due to overall shoulder instability.


Why can it be a chronic problem?

A traumatic injury that causes shoulder dislocation increases your risk for ongoing shoulder instability which can make you susceptible to more dislocations in the future. It’s a vicious cycle. Generally, people experience shoulder instability if they damage the cartilage that supports the shoulder or they stretch the shoulder ligaments beyond capacity making them looser. Injuries that do any of these things can weaken your shoulder stability in the long term if not properly addressed by a medical professional.


What are the treatment options?

Clearly, you’re looking for a long-term solution that will address the ongoing instability in your shoulder. That’s why surgery may be something you’re considering or want to know more about. Different types of surgery are appropriate for different types of issues that cause your stability and dislocation problems. Your surgeon will evaluate your condition with the use of imaging testing to get a complete picture of what the issue is.

Shoulder surgery ranges in complexity. Many times, patients may find that they were not best served by an initial surgery and they require additional procedures. This may be because the initial procedure didn’t adequately address all areas of the injury.

For example, the focus is often placed on damage done to the labrum or injury to the rotator cuff. While certainly important, for many patients it does not tell the whole story. Every patient should be evaluated for glenoid bone loss in an effort to best address every cause of shoulder instability.

One advanced technique that may be employed is arthroscopic glenoid bone grafting. This particular procedure may be considered rare, but that’s because few surgeons have experience performing it. That’s why if your surgeon doesn’t at least explore the option after noting glenoid erosion, it would be a good idea to get a second opinion. A bone graft can help offer the support needed to regain stability in the shoulder.

Reverse total shoulder replacement surgery may be an option for patients suffering the effects of advanced arthritis or are dealing with complex factors that may need to be addressed with a major surgery like this. Only an expert surgeon can make that determination.

Your surgeon will go over what option would be best for your individual condition. You’ll also find out what surgery will look like, what recovery may entail, and what post-surgery treatment you may need in order to regain as much normal functionality in your shoulder as possible.


Acute injuries to the shoulder are bad enough. It’s when you start dealing with chronic shoulder instability and repeat dislocations that you’re facing a condition that can be debilitating. You shouldn’t have to feel like the status of your shoulder is dictating how you live your life. While shoulders can be a challenge to treat, with the right surgeon you can be confident that you will get the treatment you need to get your life back to normal. If you’re suffering with shoulder instability and recurring dislocations or you’ve suffered your first shoulder dislocation due to injury, book an appointment online with us today. Dr. Agrawal and his staff at Arizona Center for Hand to Shoulder Surgery are dedicated to providing you with the world class treatment you need so you can be confident your shoulder will be back in good condition.

Vivek Agrawal, MD

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