All athletics and sports carry the risk of injury, and the shoulder is particularly vulnerable. Your shoulder joint is highly mobile and exposed to extreme stresses, especially if you throw or swing with great force during your game.
Your shoulder is also a complex joint, with many tendons, ligaments, and muscles that can get stretched or torn. Damaged tissues in your shoulder may lead to joint instability, putting you at risk for more severe injuries. In extreme cases, you may even need rotator cuff repair surgery.
At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Baytown and Houston, Texas, our sports medicine specialist David Lintner, MD, is committed to helping you play safely and reduce the risk of injury. Is your shoulder unstable? Know the signs of shoulder instability, so you can get the care you need to heal and protect this essential joint. Take a look at our video page for more important shoulder exercises and demonstrations.
Who’s at risk for shoulder instability?
Although the general population only has a 1-2% risk of dislocating their shoulder during their lifetime, if you’re active or play sports, your risk is increased. In fact, males between the ages of 16-20 have the highest risk of shoulder dislocation, which is the prime cause of shoulder instability.
Advanced age also increases your risk, no matter your sex or gender. Women are most at risk for dislocation between the ages of 61-70.
Did you ever dislocate your shoulder?
If you’ve dislocated your shoulder at least once, you’re at increased risk for chronic shoulder instability. Shoulder dislocation can be extremely painful because the ball part of your upper-arm joint slips out of its shallow socket.
After your shoulder is placed back in its socket, you must take care to let it heal completely before returning to play. Working with a sports medicine specialist and a physical therapist can keep you from experiencing another dislocation.
Does your shoulder joint pop or creak when you move it?
Even if you’ve never dislocated your shoulder, your joint can become unstable due to minor injuries. Falling on your shoulder or stretching or tearing the ligaments, tendons, and muscles that hold it in place puts you at risk for instability.
One sign your joint isn’t properly aligned is the sound of creaking, popping, or grinding when you move it. Also, a single “pop” could mean the shoulder has slipped out of alignment. Be sure to get your shoulder examined and diagnosed as soon as possible.
Your shoulder and arm feel weak
An unstable shoulder affects your entire arm. If you have trouble lifting your arm above your head, you may have an unstable shoulder joint. You might also experience other sensations, such as a “loose” shoulder or “hanging” arm.
Pay attention to your arm strength. Reduced power in your throw or swing are clear signs you have an injury or unstable shoulder. An examination and imaging studies help diagnose the problem so that Dr. Lintner can design a customized treatment and rehab protocol.
Your shoulder doesn’t move or moves with difficulty
One of the complications of shoulder instability is a condition called “frozen shoulder.” When the tissues in your shoulder joint are badly injured, they can’t keep your shoulder stable, and movement will be restricted.
If you notice your shoulder is stiffer than usual or can’t move it freely in all directions without pain, you may have shoulder instability. Pay attention to early signs of stiffness, so you can avoid a frozen shoulder by getting care in time.
Your shoulder hurts
Whether you feel pain when your shoulder is at rest or during motion, pain is a clear signal that you have an injury requiring treatment. Although you may have trained yourself to ignore pain and power through it so you can accomplish your athletic goals, you must listen to your body if you want it to maintain success.
Pain in any joint isn’t a normal part of athletics or life. If you have shoulder pain, be sure to consult a sports medicine specialist so the source can be pinpointed and your shoulder can heal and rebuild itself.
Keep your shoulder strong and stable by getting the help you need with shoulder instability today. You can also take a look at our visual demonstrations of shoulder exercises and stretches on our website. Contact our friendly and knowledgeable staff at the office nearest you by phone or online form.