Shoulder instability/weakness is a common condition regularly seen by physiotherapists at Farrell Physiotherapy. Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint and is held in place by the surrounding structures including muscles.

What is shoulder instability/weakness?

Shoulder instability happens when the structures surrounding the shoulder joint are weak and therefore do not hold the shoulder in place correctly. If the joint is too loose it may slide partially out of place and this is called shoulder subluxation. If the shoulder joint comes completely out of place this is called dislocation.

What causes shoulder instability/weakness?

Shoulder instability often occurs after a trauma which may partially or fully dislocate the shoulder such as a fall on an outstretched hand or a direct blow to the shoulder and frequently occurs in sports such as rugby.

Shoulder instability can also come on gradually due to repeated stresses to the shoulder joint related to repetitive end range shoulder movements such as swimming or throwing.

Rarely, shoulder instability is caused by a general ligament laxity in the body- commonly referred to as ‘double jointed’.

What are the symptoms of shoulder instability/weakness?

The symptoms over shoulder instability vary from person to person. Some people may experience little or no symptoms and in atraumatic shoulder instability the early symptoms may include the shoulder subluxing or shoulder pain/ache during certain activities.

Post-traumatic shoulder instability is usually reported with a specific and painful incident and often the shoulder will have dislocated or subluxed.

People with shoulder instability often feel a clunking, clicking or popping sensation in their shoulder following certain movements.

How is shoulder instability/weakness diagnosed?

Your physiotherapist can carry out a full shoulder examination to determine whether you have shoulder instability and can rule out other causes of your shoulder problem. Other investigations such as an X-ray or CT scan may also assist in diagnosis and see if any other structures are involved.

What treatment can Farrell Physiotherapy offer for shoulder instability/weakness?

Physiotherapy for shoulder instability is necessary in order to speed up the healing process and strengthen the shoulder to prevent the instability occurring.

Physiotherapy can include:

  • Progressive strengthening exercises to improve rotator cuffe and shoulder strength and also stability
  • Biomechanical correction such as throwing or swimming stroke correction
  • Electrotherapy
  • Soft tissue massage
  • Taping
  • Joint mobilisation
  • Ice or heat treatment
  • Advice and education
  • Postural correction
  • Activity modification advice
  • Pilates
  • Anti-inflammatory advice
  • Return to functional/sporting activities exercise programme

Despite the necessary physiotherapy, some people require other intervention in order to get the best outcome. Further investigations may be required such as scans and occasionally surgery is required to repair the connective tissue holding the shoulder in place.

Benefit of physiotherapy for shoulder instability/weakness?

Most cases of shoulder instability respond well to physiotherapy and there are several benefits of physiotherapy for shoulder instability including:

  • Reduced pain
  • Improved range of movement
  • Improved strength
  • Improved shoulder stability
  • Prevention of shoulder instability re-occurring

If you would like to book an assessment or enquire further, please call 01245 830280 or e-mail: