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Shoulder Pain and Problems

What is the shoulder?

The shoulder is made up of several layers, including the following:

bones – the collarbone (clavicle), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the upper arm bone (humerus).

joints – facilitate movement, including the following:

  • sternoclavicular joint (where the clavicle meets the sternum)
  • o acromioclavicular (AC) joint (where the clavicle meets the acromion)
  • o shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint) – a ball-and-socket joint that facilitates forward, circular, and backward movement of the shoulder.

ligaments – a white, shiny, flexible band of fibrous tissue that binds joints together and connects various bones and cartilage, including the following:

    • joint capsule – a group of ligaments that connect the humerus to the socket of the shoulder joint on the scapula to stabilize the shoulder and keep it from dislocating.
    • ligaments that attach the clavicle to the acromion
    • ligaments that connect the clavicle to the scapula by attaching to the coracoid process

    acromion – the roof (highest point) of the shoulder that is formed by a part of the scapula.

    tendons – the tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. The rotator cuff tendons are a group of tendons that connect the deepest layer of muscles to the humerus.

    muscles (to help support and rotate the shoulder in many directions)

    bursa – a closed space between two moving surfaces that has a small amount of lubricating fluid inside; located between the rotator cuff muscle layer and the outer layer of large, bulky muscles.

    rotator cuff – composed of tendons, the rotator cuff (and associated muscles) holds the ball of the glenohumeral joint at the top of the upper arm bone (humerus).

    Shoulder pain may be localized in a specific area or may spread to areas around the shoulder or down the arm.

    What causes shoulder problems?

    Although the shoulder is the most movable joint in the body, it is also an unstable joint because of its range-of-motion. Because the ball of the upper arm is larger than the socket of the shoulder, it is susceptible to injury.

    The shoulder joint must also be supported by soft tissues – muscles, tendons, and ligaments – which are also subject to injury, overuse, and under use.

    Degenerative conditions and other diseases in the body may also contribute to shoulder problems, or generate pain that travels along nerves to the shoulder.

    Treatment of shoulder problems:

    Specific treatment of shoulder problems will be determined by your physician based on:

    • your age, overall health, and medical history
    • extent of the condition
    • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
    • expectations for the course of the condition
    • your opinion or preference