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Shoulder Instability

Dr. Matthew Pifer -  - Orthopedic Shoulder Surgeon

Dr. Matthew Pifer

Orthopedic Shoulder Surgeon & Orthopedic Sports Medicine Surgeon located in Santa Barbara, CA

If your shoulder feels loose and you’ve had problems with joint dislocations, the reason could be shoulder instability. If you live in or near Santa Barbara, California, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon Matthew Pifer, MD, can help using his considerable experience combined with the latest orthopedic techniques and procedures. Call Dr. Pifer today to schedule a consultation or book an appointment online.

Shoulder Instability Q & A

What is shoulder instability?

Your shoulder has a wider range of movement than any other joint, which is a valuable asset but does make it vulnerable to dislocation. This can lead to persistent looseness of the shoulder joint, which is called chronic shoulder instability.

A shoulder dislocation occurs when the head of your upper arm bone (humerus) comes away from the socket in your shoulder joint (glenoid) where it usually sits. Dislocations most often happen because of injuries and accidents, which suddenly force the humerus out of its socket. If you dislocate your shoulder once, it’s more likely to happen again.

Overuse of the shoulder causes loosening of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles that support the joints, which leads to chronic instability. Taking part in sports that involve a lot of overhead action or working in an industry where you raise your arms a lot are common causes of overuse injuries.

Some patients have a problem called multidirectional instability. This occurs without a history of dislocation or overuse if you have inherently loose ligaments.

How is shoulder instability diagnosed?

The symptoms of shoulder instability give Dr. Pifer a good indication of what’s causing your problem. You’re likely to experience pain and repeatedly find your shoulder dislocates or feels loose and gives out.

To confirm the diagnosis, Dr. Pifer carries out a physical exam using specific tests that assess shoulder instability. You might also need diagnostic imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI of your shoulder.

How is shoulder instability treated?

Initial treatments for shoulder instability are nonsurgical approaches. These could include:

  • Activity modification
  • NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Regenerative medicine

Resting your shoulder and following a physical therapy program helps the tissues heal while medication reduces inflammation and pain. Regenerative medicine treatments like PRP (platelet-rich plasma) and stem cell therapy can promote healing in the affected tissues.

It might take several months before you feel the benefit of treatment, but nonsurgical approaches are successful for the majority of patients. If you don’t improve with the initial approaches, there are surgical options for treating shoulder instability.

Dr. Pifer can use sutures and anchors to reattach ligaments to bones, for example. Or he can use arthroscopy to repair soft tissues and improve the stability of your shoulder joint. Dr. Pifer uses minimally invasive surgery wherever possible to minimize tissue damage and ensure faster healing.

Rehabilitation is vital after shoulder instability surgery to help the ligaments heal and prevent scarring that could limit your recovery. Using regenerative medicine therapies can also help the tissues heal faster and more completely.

If you think you might have shoulder instability, call Matthew Pifer, MD, today, or book an appointment online.