About Shoulder Instability

What is it and what are your treatment options?

Anchorage: (907)562-2277
Wasilla: (907) 357-2267
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What is Shoulder Instability?

The humerus (arm bone), the glenoid cavity of the scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone) are the bones that make up the shoulder joint. Important structures that stabilize the joint are:

  • Ligaments connect bones to bones.
  • Tendons connect muscles to bones.
  • The glenoid labrum helps the humerus fit perfectly in the glenoid cavity.

An injury to any of these important structures can cause shoulder instability. Common injuries are rotator cuff, glenoid labrum partial and complete tears.

Common Causes:

  • A direct trauma.
  • A fall onto an outstretched arm, resulting in a dislocation.
  • Existing injuries that tear or stretch the ligaments in the shoulder.

Symptoms of Shoulder Instability may include:

  • A clicking or popping feeling when you move the joint
  • Pain, weakness or numbness during activities that necessitate raising your arm
  • Repeated subluxations (partial dislocations where the joint slips partially, but not completely, out of place)
  • Tenderness to the touch

Orthopedic Physicians Alaska (OPA) team of shoulder specialists take a step-by-step approach to determine the cause of shoulder instability. Key diagnostic steps include:

  • A medical history and symptom review
  • A physical examination
  • Medical imaging studies (multiple view x-rays and an MRI)

An OPA specialist’s accurate diagnosis enables the creation of an effective treatment plan.

Common Treatments:

Nonsurgical treatment options treat shoulder instability that is not caused by partial or complete shoulder dislocations.

Physical Therapy

The most commonly prescribed and effective nonsurgical treatment option. An OPA approved physical therapist prescribes shoulder strengthening exercises. The therapist teaches you how to perform the exercises and monitors your progress. Progress is carefully tracked and progress reports are sent to your OPA specialist.

Surgical Treatments:

Minimally invasive surgery may be recommended to treat shoulder instability that causes partial or complete shoulder dislocations:

Labrum Repair

An OPA specialist uses suture anchors to repair the torn labrum and reattach it to the glenoid cavity.

Rotator Cuff Repair

An OPA specialist uses suture anchors to repair torn rotator cuff tendons and reattach them to the humerus.

You will regain shoulder stability and function following recovery and physical therapy.

At OPA, our Board Certified and Fellowship Trained Orthopedic Surgeons are experts in diagnosing and treating shoulder instability.

If you are experiencing symptoms of shoulder instability and would like a treatment solution you should contact OPA to schedule an appointment at any of our convenient locations in Anchorage and Eagle River.

Schedule An Appointment

To receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan, please make an appointment with one of our Orthopedic Team Specialists at our offices conveniently located in Anchorage and Wasilla, AK.
Anchorage: (907) 562-2277
Wasilla: (907) 357-2267

OPA Shoulder Team

(click a provider to view profile)

Owen Ala, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Deryk Anderson, DO

Orthopedic Specialist

Tucker Drury, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Adam Ellison, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Robert Hall, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Christopher Manion, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Jeff Moore, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Eli Powell, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Greg Schweiger, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Our Mission

To provide the finest orthopedic surgery and musculoskeletal care in North America, offering general and specialized adult care to all Alaskans and visitors.


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