Shoulder Instability Specialist

Dr. Patrick McCulloch

Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine located in Houston, TX

Sudden trauma or an overuse injury can lead to shoulder instability. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Patrick McCulloch specializes in treating shoulder instability at three Houston, Texas, locations, including Spring Valley, Bellaire, and the Texas Medical Center. If you suffer from acute or chronic shoulder instability or repeated dislocations, call to book an appointment today.

Shoulder Instability Q & A

What is shoulder instability?

Shoulder instability is characterized by stretched or injured tissues of your shoulder joint, such as the ligaments or labrum. This causes your shoulder to become unstable, which means the head of your upper arm bone (humerus) moves completely or partially out of the socket bone (glenoid). 

What causes shoulder instability?

The three main causes of shoulder instability are:

Shoulder dislocation

An injury or trauma can cause a shoulder dislocation, which means the bones move out of place. Shoulder dislocations often stretch the ligaments and sometimes tear the labrum, which is the ring of cartilage around the glenoid. Once this happens, it can lead to recurrent dislocations.

Repetitive strain

You can develop shoulder instability without ever having had a dislocation. Repetitive overhead motions, like those involved in swimming, volleyball, and tennis, can stretch out the ligaments and lead to shoulder instability. 

Multidirectional instability

A small number of shoulder instability cases aren’t due to an injury or repetitive strain. Some people have naturally loose ligaments throughout their bodies, which may allow the shoulder to dislocate in multiple directions. This is sometimes called being double-jointed.

How is shoulder instability diagnosed?

First, Dr. McCulloch or a member of his team asks you about your symptoms and medical history. They examine your shoulder and may take tests, such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, to check for signs of injuries.

How is shoulder instability treated?

Dr. McCulloch and his team take a conservative approach to treatment, which begins with nonsurgical methods such as physical therapy and possible biologic injections.

If these treatments don’t relieve your shoulder pain or instability, or you have a high risk of recurrent dislocations which can cause further damage, surgery may be recommended.

Dr. McCulloch treats shoulder instability with minimally invasive arthroscopy whenever possible. However, some patients may require open surgery if this is a revision situation or there is significant damage to the bone or cartilage.

Both approaches involve repairing torn or stretched ligaments, so they can hold your shoulder joint in place. After surgery, he will recommend temporarily immobilizing your shoulder in a sling, followed by physical therapy to improve your range of motion and strength. 

For expert care of shoulder labral tears, instability and recurrent dislocations, call the office of Dr. Patrick McCulloch to book an appointment today.