Shoulder Impingement & Instability

Shoulder impingement & instability can cause very uncomfortable symptoms and if left untreated could cause greater problems. Thankfully, this diagnosis can be addressed with physical therapy.

Shoulder instability refers to a condition where the shoulder joint lining or ligaments are stretched or detached. As a result, the ball of the shoulder joint becomes loose and may move fully or partially out of the socket. It can happen even without any significant injury.

If you have shoulder instability, you may feel pain when your shoulder gives away. It is important to consult with an expert physician for the diagnosis of shoulder instability.


People with shoulder instability can usually feel the ball of their shoulder joint slipping out of its socket. This may cause a lot of pain, especially with movements and activities. Certain positions of the arm may also trigger shoulder pain.

Other symptoms of shoulder instability include a reduced range of motion and swelling or bruising of the shoulder.  


Physicians generally do a comprehensive physical examination and assess your medical history to diagnose shoulder instability. They will observe your range of motion and check the points of tenderness in addition to conducting a few tests to determine the degree of your shoulder looseness.

Your physician may also do an x-ray to determine the cause of your shoulder instability and ensure there is no fracture. A CT scan and MRI scan may also be done in some cases.


Below are the top non-surgical treatment options for shoulder instability.

  • Resting and avoiding straining activities
  • Wearing a sling or using shoulder bracing for temporary immobilization
  • Physical therapy to improve the range of motion after the shoulder has subsided
  • Strengthening exercises to maintain the range of motion
  • Applying ice bags and cold packs to the affected area before and after exercise to reduce shoulder pain and swelling
  • Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicines

Surgical treatment may be necessary if you’re not willing to stop the activities that trigger shoulder pain or if your shoulder instability occurs during routine activities. The options include arthroscopy and open surgery.


Shoulder impingement happens when the muscles between the bones in your shoulder region are injured. The symptoms include:

  • Shoulder weakness
  • Shoulder pain when you extend your arm above the head
  • Difficulty reaching your arm behind your back


You should consult with a physician if your shoulder pain doesn’t go away in a few weeks or if it interferes with your daily activities. Here are a few things you can do if you have shoulder impingement.

  • Avoid activities that worsen your shoulder pain or involve repetitive movements
  • Continue to move your arm as much as possible to avoid stiffened shoulder muscles
  • Apply an ice pack on the affected area a few times a day
  • Take painkillers to relieve shoulder pain and discomfort
  • Consult with a physical therapist and do shoulder exercises regularly
  • Take steroid injections
  • Undergo arthroscopy if other treatments don’t work

Shoulder Instability and shoulder impingement can manifest and be caused by many different things.  The key to overcoming these diagnoses and preventing future injuries is proper treatment of muscle imbalances, stretching properly, and performing proper exercises focusing of muscle symmetry and endurance.

If you would like to learn more about the proper exercises and what treatment we provide here at Specialized Physical Therapy, request a consultation or give us a call 201-773-8851 to get started!

Request a free consultation or give us a call to get started!