Shoulder Subluxation

Shoulder Subluxation, TPL Orthopedics and Sports MedicineWhen the shoulder partially dislocates, shoulder subluxation or shoulder instability may occur. The large range of movement in the shoulder makes it vulnerable to dislocation. Shoulder subluxation may be associated with pain or dead arm sensation. In some cases, the subluxation may not be painful, but may hamper the performance of certain daily activities or sports.

Shoulder subluxation can happen in one direction, such as anterior instability or posterior instability, or even in multiple directions. Anterior instability is the most common form in shoulder subluxation because the joint capsule is at its weakest at the front of the joint.

Board certified orthopedic surgeons at the Thomas & Bigler Shoulder & Knee Institute provide treatments for shoulder instability to patients in Las Vegas, Nevada and other suburbs and cities in the southeast part of the state.



Shoulder subluxation may occur due to a number of reasons. If the joint surfaces are shaped slightly differently, the joint may not be as stable compared to people who have normal joint anatomy. Shoulder instability may be caused due to:

  • Trauma (traumatic instability): This often occurs because of a specific accident or injury which damages the structures that provide stability
  • Old injury: Sometimes an old injury that weakens the capsule may cause instability, which is called post traumatic instability
  • Joint Laxity (atraumatic instability): This may occur because of anatomical abnormalities, hyper mobility, or muscle weakness certain conditions, including pregnancy
  • Acute or chronic instability: A traumatic injury occurring on an already lax joint may create chronic instability



The orthopedic surgeon will perform several tests to determine the exact type of shoulder instability that the patient may have. They will evaluate the patient’s detailed medical history to try to understand the reasons behind this occurrence. The surgeon will also determine whether the patient has a condition that caused them to have lax ligaments throughout the body, which is known as hyper mobility.



The surgeon will usually recommend a strengthening program to help the patient develop the muscles around the shoulder which are responsible for stabilizing the joint. A specific type of electrotherapy may be performed to help identify the muscles that are not functioning correctly. A tiny electric current to make the muscle tingle will help the patient to train the muscles more efficiently.

In some cases of shoulder instability, such as traumatic instability, if conservative treatment approaches do not work, the surgeon may have no other option but to perform a surgery. The surgeon will have several techniques available to improve the joint laxity at the shoulder. But this will have to be followed by a comprehensive rehabilitation program to ensure that the patient does not lose any joint movement.

Arthroscopy is nowadays more commonly used to determine the precise cause of shoulder subluxation. This is a minimally invasive procedure where the patient is administered an anaesthetic, and a small fiber optic camera is introduced to the joint to examine the underlying structures and assess the damage that could be repaired with surgery in a less invasive and targeted manner.

Judicious, responsible, and board certified plastic surgeons Dr. Steven Thomas and Dr. Gregory Bigler receive patients from Las Vegas, Nevada and nearby areas for shoulder subluxation treatment.

If you would like to schedule an appointment or learn more about the Knee and Shoulder Institute procedures & treatments performed by Las Vegas, Nevada board certified surgeons Steven C. Thomas, MD and Gregory T. Bigler, MD. call (702) 933-9393; Physical Therapy (702) 933-9393.

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