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  • GH instability
  • Anterior or anterior-inferior GH instability
  • Posterior GH instability
  • Multidirectional GH instability

  • 831.00 Closed dislocation of shoulder

  • S43.006 Unspecified dislocation of unspecified shoulder joint
  • M25.311 Other instability, right shoulder


  • Excessive and symptomatic translation of the humeral head in one or more directions
  • Instability may be associated with dislocation or subluxation associated with trauma
  • Glenohumeral instability may be secondary to atraumatic factors associated with structural, postural, or movement dysfunction or from recurrent minor injury to the structures of the glenohumeral joint2-4
  • Symptomatology and management varies based on onset, degree, frequency, direction, associated pathology, neuromuscular control, and premorbid activity level4
    • Anterior or anterior-inferior instability
      • Mechanism
        • 95% of traumatic shoulder instabilities4
        • May result in dislocation or subluxation
        • The humerus is forced into extreme abduction and external rotation, or horizontal abduction
        • Associated pathology includes Bankart lesion (anterior), humeral avulsion of glenohumeral ligaments (HAGL), and Hill-Sachs lesion5
      • Symptoms
        • Anterior and inferior shoulder pain
        • Instability and apprehension to abduction, external rotation, horizontal abduction motions
    • Posterior instability
      • Mechanism
        • 5% of traumatic shoulder instabilities4
        • May result in dislocation or subluxation
        • Fall on an outstretched arm, movements of extreme horizontal adduction or internal rotation
        • Associated pathology includes disruption of the posterior capsule, tearing of the teres minor, reverse Hill-Sachs lesion6
      • Symptoms
        • Posterior shoulder pain
        • Instability and apprehension to flexion, horizontal adduction, internal rotation
    • Multidirectional instability
      • Mechanism
        • May occur without episode of trauma, though patient may have a history of traumatic dislocation7
        • May result in dislocation or subluxation
        • Instability and apprehension present in multiple directions, though one direction may be the primary direction of instability
        • Associated pathology depends on primary direction of instability, duration of instability, history of trauma4,7
      • Symptoms
        • Pain and instability are often determined by the direction of primary instability and can vary based on activity

Essentials of Diagnosis

  • Diagnosis made primarily by clinical examination, though imaging often necessary to rule in or out associated pathology
  • Anterior instability is most common, followed by multidirectional, then posterior instability

General Considerations

  • Onset, degree, frequency, direction, associated pathology, neuromuscular control, and premorbid activity level dictate the diagnosis and management4
  • Interaction between glenohumeral, scapulothoracic, acromioclavicular, and sternoclavicular joints must be examined to determine optimal treatment plan8,9


  • Young athletes most commonly affected7
  • Males more often affected than females by traumatic instability; inconclusive evidence for atraumatic or multidirectional
  • Multidirectional instability may be associated with gymnastics, swimming, weightlifting, and the individual may have increased joint laxity throughout the body7

Signs and Symptoms

  • Specific signs and symptoms depend on onset, degree, frequency, direction, and associated pathology of the injury
  • ...

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