Instability & Shoulder Dislocation

Instability and Shoulder Dislocation

Body Part


The shoulder is a ball and socket joint in the upper extremity. The glenoid (the socket) and the humeral head (ball) form the gleno-humeral joint. This joint is enclosed in a capsule. Within the capsule there are thickenings – the glenohumeral ligaments – which aid in stabilizing the shoulder joint.


Occasionally, especially after certain forceful motions with the shoulder in certain positions, the ligaments fail to hold the shoulder in the joint and they rupture leading to dislocation. This is more common in younger patients with lax soft tissues and in patients who suffer from seizures.


The individual will be apprehensive and in severe discomfort. There is an inability to move the shoulder and a visible deformity may be present.


The diagnosis is usually straightforward but an X-ray is often taken to rule out a broken bone. The emergency treatment is to put the joint back in place. This is done in the emergency department (casualty) or in theatre. The shoulder is then immobilized for a few days prior to starting gentle movements. Caution in the extremes of shoulder movement should be observed for 6 weeks. Most of the time the joint does not re-dislocate but if it does then you and your surgeon should have a discussion about surgical repair of the torn ligaments. This is done via keyhole surgery and re-stabilises the joint, preventing further episodes of dislocation.