Shoulder Instability



Shoulder instability is often caused by repetitive trauma and overuse.

Risk Factors

Shoulder instability is more common in men between the ages of 18 and 25. It is also more common in baseball pitchers.



Problems may be:

  • Pain in the shoulder
  • Pain with throwing motion
  • Shoulder may slip out of place
  • Shoulder or arm weakness
  • Shoulder may feel loose


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the shoulder.

Pictures of your shoulder may be taken. This can be done with x-rays or an MRI scan.



It may take 3 months to heal. The goals of treatment are to manage symptoms during that time. This may include:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • A sling to prevent the shoulder from moving as it heals
  • Exercises to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion


Some people may need surgery when other methods do not help. It may be done to repair torn or stretched ligaments so they can hold the shoulder joint in place.


Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles may help prevent some injuries. This can be done with exercise.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.