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Spotting the Signs of Shoulder Instability

Your shoulder joint is complex, made up of ligaments, tendons, and bones that all work together when you move. When the soft tissues or bones of your shoulder move out of position, you might not be able to move like you should.

As an experienced sports medicine specialist, Carlos A. Uquillas, MD, understands how painful a shoulder injury can be. Dr. Uquillas can treat a variety of shoulder injuries, including shoulder instability, to get you back in the game as soon as possible.

Why your shoulder is unstable

Shoulder instability occurs when the lining of your shoulder joint or the ligaments that hold your joint in place stretch too far. These tissues can tear or become detached from your joint, allowing the ball of your shoulder joint to move out of the socket.

Playing sports increases your risk for shoulder instability, especially if you play baseball or another sport that involves repetitive use of your shoulder.

Other common causes of shoulder instability include:

You can also be predisposed to shoulder instability because of your genetic history. Some people are born with loose ligaments that can’t properly support the shoulder joint.

Warning signs to look for in shoulder instability

A hallmark sign you might have shoulder instability is hearing a popping noise when you move the joint. Shoulder instability can also cause symptoms like:

You might also feel like your shoulder joint is stuck in position and it becomes very painful to move the joint in any direction.

Dr. Uquillas can confirm your shoulder pain is the result of instability during a physical exam, using X-rays and other diagnostic imaging tests. He designs a treatment plan based on your needs and the severity of your joint damage.

Treatment options for shoulder instability

If you suspect you have shoulder instability, it’s important that you stop physical activity for several days to see if your pain gets better. We might recommend that you use a sling to temporarily immobilize your shoulder.

Home care

You can take over-the-counter medications and ice therapy to reduce swelling and pain. Once you’re feeling better, specific shoulder exercises can help you strengthen the tissues that surround your shoulder joint.

Regenerative medicine

If you’re not able to find relief with rest and home care, Dr. Uquillas might recommend other conservative therapies like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or stem cell injections. 

Injections of these substances found naturally in your body help stimulate your body’s natural healing processes to repair damaged joint structures from the inside out.


When you have recurrent shoulder instability or chronic pain that’s not treatable with medications or regenerative medicine, you might be a candidate for surgery to repair damaged ligaments in your shoulder joint. 

In severe situations, you might need partial or total joint replacement surgery or advanced joint preservation surgery to restore full function in your shoulder joint.

If you’re sidelined by chronic shoulder pain because of shoulder instability, call the office of Carlos A. Uquillas, MD, near you or book a consultation online today.

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