Minor Shoulder Instability

Authors: Castagna A, Nordenson U, Garofalo R, Karlsson J

References: Arthroscopy. Volume 23, Issue 2, Pages 211-215 (February 2007)

The wide spectrum of shoulder instability is difficult to include in 1 classification. The distinction between traumatic, unidirectional, and atraumatic multidirectional instability is still widely used, even though this classification is not sufficiently precise to include all the different pathological findings of shoulder instability. We present “minor instability,” which is a pathological condition causing a dysfunction of the glenohumeral articulation, especially in combination with microtrauma, repetitive or not, or after a period of immobilization or inactivity. When “minor shoulder instability” is suspected, the patient’s history and detailed clinical examination represent the most important factors when establishing the diagnosis. In particular, the apprehension test stressing the middle glenohumeral ligament (MGHL)/labral complex in the position of midabduction and external rotation may be painful and may even reveal anterior instability or subluxation. Conventional radiographs are negative in most cases, as is magnetic resonance imaging arthrography. It is only after an accurate arthroscopic assessment that the pathological lesion can be found. The major pathological process can be identified at the level of the anterior superior labrum, in particular the MGHL complex, and appears as hyperemia, fraying, stretching, loosening, thinning, hypoplasia, or even absence. It may, however, be difficult to distinguish between a normal variant and a pathological lesion. Clinical symptoms and examination should always be correlated with arthroscopic findings. Recommended treatment is to restore shoulder stability and thereby prevent shoulder pain secondary to the increase in laxity. A reduction in range of motion should be expected during the postoperative phase, at least up to six to nine months. External rotation is usually permanently reduced by a few degrees.

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