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Shoulder Instability Treatment Options

The optimal treatment for shoulder instability depends upon the severity of the condition, the degree of instability and any associated damage to the tissues in the joint including the labrum, the ligaments and tendons, and the bony socket and head of the upper arm bone. Treatments include both surgical and non-surgical options.

What is non-surgical treatment for shoulder instability?

Non-surgical treatment can include a variety of options depending on the severity and cause of the instability. Common non-surgical treatments for shoulder instability include:

  1. Rest and immobilization: Resting the shoulder and immobilizing it with a sling or brace can help reduce pain and inflammation. This can be particularly effective for mild cases of shoulder instability.
  2. Activity modification: Lifestyle changes and avoiding actions that aggravate symptoms are important to allow healing.
  3. Anti-inflammatory medications: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with shoulder instability.
  4. Physical therapy: Physical therapy can be an effective way to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint and improve stability. Dr. Godin will work with a physical therapist to create a customized program of exercises to help stabilize the shoulder for each patient.
  5. Corticosteroid injections: Corticosteroid injections can be used to reduce inflammation and pain in the shoulder joint. However, these injections are typically reserved for short-term use due to potential side effects.
  6. Lifestyle modifications: Lifestyle modifications like avoiding activities that aggravate the shoulder joint and improving posture can help prevent further shoulder instability.

It’s important to note that non-surgical treatment may not be effective for all cases of shoulder instability, and surgery may be necessary to fully stabilize the shoulder joint.

What are the surgical treatment options for shoulder instability?

When non-surgical treatment does not work or the instability is severe, surgery may be recommended. The type of surgery will depend on the cause of the instability.

Surgical options include:

  1. Arthroscopic stabilization: Arthroscopic stabilization is a minimally invasive surgical technique that involves the insertion of a small camera and instruments into the shoulder joint to repair or tighten the ligaments and soft tissues.
    • Arthroscopic surgery is typically recommended to repair a Bankart lesion.
    • Arthroscopic surgery called a Capsular shift is a procedure to tighten and reposition the shoulder joint capsule and ligaments to improve stability.
    • Remplissage is an arthroscopic procedure where the surgeon fills in a defect in the shoulder joint by transferring a portion of a tendon to restore stability.
  2. Latarjet procedure: This is a surgical technique that involves transferring a piece of bone from the shoulder blade to the front of the shoulder joint to create a new, stable joint. It may be performed as an arthroscopic or open procedure.
  3. Open surgery: This involves making a larger incision to access the shoulder joint to repair or tighten the ligaments. A traditional approach to Bankart repair is open surgery, which requires a large incision over the shoulder joint.

Post-operative Rehabilitation

Following surgery, the shoulder will be immobilized in a sling. When it is removed, physical therapy will begin with exercises to help regain strength, mobility, and range of motion in the shoulder.

Schedule a shoulder consultation

Dr. Jonathan Godin is a renowned board-certified orthopedic surgeon and a leader in sports medicine. He received fellowship training in advanced arthroscopic and reconstructive surgical techniques for the treatment of complex orthopedic and sports related injuries at the distinguished Steadman Clinic in Vail Colorado. Contact Dr. Godin at his Vail, Frisco, or Edwards, Colorado office to schedule a consultation to receive the correct diagnosis and all your treatment options.

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