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What Are the Treatments for a Torn Shoulder Ligament?

author image Gail Morris
Gail Morris has been writing extensively since 1997. She completed a master's degree in nursing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and practiced in medicine for more than 20 years. Morris has published medical articles in peer-reviewed journals and now writes for various online publications and freelances for Internet marketers.
What Are the Treatments for a Torn Shoulder Ligament?
Shoulder mobility allows a variety of movement but increases instability of the joint. Photo Credit tennis image by Snezana Skundric from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

The human shoulder joint has more mobility than other joints in the body. It can turn in many directions and allows raising hands over the head, rotation of the arm and crossing in front of the body. But this mobility increases the instability of the joint. Instability happens because of injury to the ligaments that hold the joint in place, sometimes resulting in dislocation. Once ashoulder has dislocated, it is vulnerable to repeated episodes.


According to the physicians at the University of Virginia Health System, rest will help torn ligaments in the shoulder to heal. A physician may recommend a sling to decrease any inadvertent motion to the shoulder that can increase pain and discomfort. Ice and compression during rest will also help to decrease inflammation and swelling. (Reference 1)


There are no medications that can heal a torn shoulder ligament, but some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can ease pain and symptoms related to the instability of the joint. The University of Washington Orthopedics and Sports Medicine department recommends that patients be well aware of the risks of using medications, any interactions with other medications, the recommended dose and the approximate cost before a decision is made to use medication. (Reference 2)

Physical Therapy

What Are the Treatments for a Torn Shoulder Ligament?
Once pain subsides physical therapy will help to strengthen the area. Photo Credit Man exercising shoulders in the gym image by Elzbieta Sekowska from Fotolia.com

After a shoulder has become unstable, tearing ligaments and dislocating, it rarely returns to the previous level of stability. The ligaments do not return to their pre-injury length. This is why the hallmark of treatment for a shoulder ligament tear is physical therapy, rehabilitation and strengthening of the rotator cuff. If the tendons of the rotator cuff are strong, they will successfully keep the ball in the socket without relying on the ligament stability. The physical therapist may use ultrasound, heat or ice to help reduce the inflammation before starting exercises that increase the strength of the rotator cuff. According to Iowa State University Cyclone Sports Medicine center, torn ligaments associated with shoulder instability do not regain good stability with rehabilitation alone. Physicians recommend that if instability persists after a four- to six-week trial of strengthening then surgery may be needed to tighten the ligaments in the shoulder and repair any cartilage damage. (Reference 3)


People who suffer from recurrent shoulder instability can benefit from arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn ligaments and re-establish shoulder stability. Doctors at the University of Washington Orthopedics and Sports Medicine department recommend this surgery when an adequate trial of non-surgical techniques is not effective to eliminate symptoms and restore comfort. During surgery the physician will evaluate the tear visually with a small camera and then attempt repair of the appropriate injuries. A qualified and experienced surgeon will offer increased potential of successful results without recurring problems. (Reference 2)

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