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Shoulder Instability

A common shoulder problem is instability, affecting athletes as well as the general population. The shoulder is a very mobile ball-and-socket joint, and in people who have dislocated it once, it can become unstable and prone to repeated full or partial dislocations. Other people develop this problem because they have unusually loose joints. Many patients respond well to physical therapy programs focused on strengthening and stabilizing the area, but many others need surgery to stabilize the joint.

Our Approach to Shoulder Instability

UCSF is committed to helping patients with shoulder instability recover function and return to favorite activities. We have nationally recognized experts in managing this condition. Our team includes orthopedic surgeons, primary care sports medicine doctors, physical therapists and athletic trainers, all of whom work together to tailor a treatment plan to each patient's needs and goals.

Treatment for shoulder instability depends on the injury's cause and severity. We usually begin with a period of rest and use of anti-inflammatory medications, followed by physical therapy.

Surgical repair is often necessary for younger patients who've experienced a dislocated shoulder from a traumatic injury and for patients who've had repeated dislocations. The primary surgical treatment is a minimally invasive procedure to reattach the problematic soft tissues. However, patients with significant bone loss and a high degree of joint instability may need a bone-restoring procedure (most commonly, the Latarjet procedure). This is an open (traditional) surgery.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-orthopedics

    One of the nation's best for orthopedic care

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.