Shoulder

The shoulder joint is composed of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm bone) (see illustration). Two joints facilitate shoulder movement. The acromioclavicular (ah-KRO-me-o-klah-VIK-u-lahr or AC) joint is located between the acromion (ah-KRO-me-on, the part of the scapula that forms the highest point of the shoulder) and the clavicle. The glenohumeral joint, commonly called the shoulder joint, is a ball-and-socket-type joint that helps move the shoulder forward and backward and allows the arm to rotate in a circular fashion or hinge out and up away from the body. (The “ball,” or humerus, is the top, rounded portion of the upper arm bone; the “socket,” or glenoid, is a dish-shaped part of the outer edge of the scapula into which the ball fits.) The capsule is a soft tissue envelope that encircles the glenohumeral joint. It is lined by a thin, smooth synovial membrane.

In contrast to the hip joint, which more closely approximates a true ball-and-socket joint, the shoulder joint can be compared to a golf ball and tee, in which the ball can easily slip off the flat tee. Because the bones provide little inherent stability to the shoulder joint, it is highly dependent on surrounding soft tissues such as capsule ligaments and the muscles surrounding the rotator cuff to hold the ball in place. Whereas the hip joint is inherently quite stable because of the encircling bony anatomy, it also is relatively immobile. The shoulder, on the other hand, is relatively unstable but highly mobile, allowing an individual to place the hand in numerous positions. It is, in fact, one of the most mobile joints in the human body.

The bones of the shoulder are held in place by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Tendons are tough cords of tissue that attach the shoulder muscles to bone and assist the muscles in moving the shoulder. Ligaments attach shoulder bones to each other, providing stability. For example, the front of the joint capsule is anchored by three glenohumeral ligaments. The rotator cuff is a structure composed of tendons that work along with associated muscles to hold the ball at the top of the humerus in the glenoid socket and provide mobility and strength to the shoulder joint. Two filmy sac-like structures called bursae permit smooth gliding between bones, muscles, and tendons. They cushion and protect the rotator cuff from the bony arch of the acromion.

What Are the Origins and Causes of Shoulder Problems?

The shoulder is easily injured because the ball of the upper arm is larger than the shoulder socket that holds it. To remain stable, the shoulder must be anchored by its muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Although the shoulder is easily injured during sporting activities and manual labor, the primary source of shoulder problems appears to be the natural age-related degeneration of the surrounding soft tissues such as those found in the rotator cuff. The incidence of rotator cuff problems rises dramatically as a function of age and is generally seen among individuals who are more than 60 years old. Often, the dominant and nondominant arm will be affected to a similar degree. Overuse of the shoulder can lead to more rapid age-related deterioration.

Shoulder pain may be localized or may be felt in areas around the shoulder or down the arm. Disease within the body (such as gallbladder, liver, or heart disease, or disease of the cervical spine of the neck) also may generate pain that travels along nerves to the shoulder. However, these other causes of shoulder pain are beyond the scope of this publication, which will focus on problems within the shoulder itself.

Source: NIAMS (NIH)1

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The shoulder joint is composed of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm bone).

Two joints facilitate shoulder movement.

The acromioclavicular (ah-KRO-me-o-klah-VIK-u-lahr or AC) joint is located between the acromion (ah-KRO-me-on, the part of the scapula that forms the highest point of the shoulder) and the clavicle.

The glenohumeral joint, commonly called the shoulder joint, is a ball-and-socket-type joint that helps move the shoulder forward and backward and allows the arm to rotate in a circular fashion or hinge out and up away from the body. (The “ball,” or humerus, is the top, rounded portion of the upper arm bone; the “socket,” or glenoid, is a dish-shaped part of the outer edge of the scapula into which the ball fits.)

The capsule is a soft tissue envelope that encircles the glenohumeral joint. It is lined by a thin, smooth synovial membrane.

Source: NIAMS (NIH)2

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Shoulder Joint: The articulation between the head of the Humerus and the glenoid cavity of the Scapula.3

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Shoulder Joint: A ball-and-socket joint at the upper end of the humerus, located at the junction of humerus and scapula.4

Categories for Shoulder

Category of Shoulder Joint:

  • Joint By Site
5

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References

  1. Source: NIAMS (NIH): niams.nih.gov/ health_info/ shoulder_problems/ 
  2. Source: NIAMS (NIH): niams.nih.gov/ Health_Info/ Shoulder_Problems/ default.asp
  3. Source: MeSH (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
  4. Source: NCI Thesaurus
  5. ibid.

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