Do you think it is possible to rehab a chronically dislocating shoulder and avoid surgery? I know from the MRIs they took that I have a severe tear of the glenohumeral ligament. I'd really like to avoid surgery if I could.
Injury to the glenohumeral ligament of the shoulder can produce instability that leads to dislocation. When you say you have a chronically dislocating shoulder, it's unlikely that conservative (nonoperative) care will work.
The soft tissue structures that hold the shoulder in the socket have been damaged repeatedly. Scar tissue forms to help heal the injury naturally but the next injury stretches the soft tissues out even more. If the labrum (a fibrous rim around the socket) is torn and/or there are other injuries along with the glenohumeral ligament, shoulder stability cannot be restored without surgery.
However, there's no reason not to try a rehab program. Work with your orthopedic surgeon and a physical therapist who specializes in these kinds of problems. Give the program a good two to three months' effort and see what results might be possible.
If you are an athlete and plan to return to your sport or if you are a manual laborer who needs full motion and strength for your work, surgery may really be your best option.
If the pain and instability don't improve with a consistent exercise program, then talk with your surgeon about other options. Even with surgery, it may be possible to have the procedure done arthroscopically. This type of approach is less invasive with fewer muscles and tendons disrupted getting to the shoulder to make the necessary repairs.
Michael S. George, MD, et al. Humeral Avulsion of Glenohumeral Ligaments. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. March 2011. Vol. 19. No. 2. Pp. 127-133.
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