Generalized ligamentous hyperlaxity and glenohumeral joint instability are common conditions that exhibit a spectrum of diverse clinical forms and may coexist in the same patient. No single diagnostic test can confirm the presence of these disorders, and a careful clinical assessment is important.
Unlike patients with traumatic shoulder instability, patients with hyperlaxity and instability are more likely to experience episodes of recurrent subluxation than they are to have recurrent dislocation. They are more likely to have instability in more than one anatomic plane, and they usually do not have the soft-tissue and osseous lesions associated with traumatic instability.
Shoulder symptoms in a patient with hyperlaxity are not always due to instability; other pathological conditions may coexist, with rotator cuff impingement being the most common.
Most patients with hyperlaxity have a reduction in instability symptoms after nonoperative treatment, including physical therapy, activity modification, and additional psychological support when necessary.
Operative treatment provides reproducibly good results for patients with hyperlaxity who do not respond to a prolonged program of nonoperative measures. Open inferior capsular shift remains the gold standard of operative treatment, although arthroscopic capsular shift and plication procedures are now producing comparable results. Thermal capsulorrhaphy is associated with unacceptably high failure rates and postoperative complications and cannot be recommended as a treatment.