Shoulder instability

Following a first-time dislocation, your arm may be put in a sling. Your doctor or physiotherapist will advise you on when to remove it to exercise.

  • Changes to your activity/rest: Making changes to the activities you do does not mean that you have to stop moving or stop using your shoulder altogether. Try to avoid activities that involve lifting your arm over your head, or contact sports for the first three months after the dislocation.
  • Maintain good posture: Sitting and standing in a good position with your shoulders back will help your movement as well as prevent the tendons in your shoulder from catching.
  • Painkillers and/or anti-inflammatories: Simple painkillers such as paracetemol can be used to dull the pain, but they do not cure the problem. Anti-inflammatories can also be effective. It is best to consult your GP if you have not taken these before.
  • Ice/Cryotherapy: Icing your shoulder can be a very effective way of reducing your pain. Place a wet flannel and a pack of frozen peas on your shoulder for 20 minutes every hour. Check the skin under the ice every five minutes to ensure that you don’t get an ice burn. Once the pain begins to settle, you can then start to ice your shoulder less frequently. For more information about heat and ice treatment download our advice sheet.
  • Occasionally, shoulder instability may require surgery. To find out more, download the shoulder instability surgery information sheet to the right.