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3 Common Causes of Shoulder Instability

3 Common Causes of Shoulder Instability

Even though your shoulder moves in many directions along a shallow socket, a stable shoulder stays in place. If you have shoulder instability, however, the head of your humerus (i.e. the ball part of your upper arm) can slide out of the socket, either completely or partially.

As head team physician for the Houston Astros for over 27 years, and team orthopedist for the Houston Texans, David Lintner, MD, has helped numerous athletes and laypeople strengthen and stabilize their shoulders. At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Dr. Lintner also specializes in minimally invasive arthroscopic shoulder repair.

If you are wondering if you have shoulder instability, the following are three of the most common causes.


Your shoulder joint contains numerous tissues that help keep the ball part of the joint stable in its shallow socket. In addition to tendons, muscles, and ligaments, your shoulder features a sheaf of cartilage that rims the edge of the socket and helps hold the head of the humerus in place. 

If you get hit in the shoulder, fall on your shoulder, or are in a car accident, your labrum or other tissues may rip or tear. Even if they’re slightly stretched, the damaged tendons, ligaments, muscles, and cartilage may not be able to keep your shoulder securely in the socket.

Repetitive motions

Pitchers and other athletes frequently throw a ball or swing a racquet or club are prone to shoulder dislocation. Repeating the same motion over and over with tremendous force causes wear-and-tear in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your shoulder.

Swimming, too, can wear down your shoulder joint. In fact, any job or sport that requires lifting your arms over your head repeatedly — such as painting or playing tennis — puts you at risk for shoulder instability. 

Born that way

In rare instances, you may have been born with loose ligaments that make you prone to shoulder dislocation. In such cases, you’re probably exceptionally limber and can be considered “double-jointed.”

In 95% of cases of unstable shoulder, the ball of the joint slips out toward the front of the shoulder. If you’re “double-jointed,” however, your shoulder may slip out of its socket in any direction — a condition that’s referred to as multidirectional instability.

Stabilize your shoulder

Whether you were born with an unstable shoulder, developed it over time due to overuse, or experienced shoulder trauma, you don’t have to live with shoulder instability. Dr. Lintner carefully evaluates all factors involved in your shoulder instability and pain through examination, personal and medical history, and imaging studies such as X-rays and MRIs.

He then custom designs a treatment plan that helps you recover strength and stability while controlling pain. He may also recommend refraining from sports or other activities while you heal. 

If you don’t respond to anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy, he may recommend repairing your damaged or stretched tissues with minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. A physical therapist can also recommend movement modifications that may reduce your risk for future dislocations.

Find out how to keep your shoulder stable, starting today. Call our office nearest you in Houston or Baytown, Texas. 

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