A Little Shoulder Anatomy 101

Your shoulder is made up of three bones: your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle). The shoulder joint is made up of these bones and held in place by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Tendons hold the shoulder muscles to the bones and help to move the muscles in the shoulder. The ligaments hold the three shoulder bones to each other and make the shoulder joint more stable.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

There are lots of different causes of shoulder pain—overhead activities such as swimming or throwing a baseball can cause a pinching of the rotator cuff or biceps tendons. Poor posture can cause shoulder pain due to the increased stress on the shoulder. Trauma such as a fall or car accident can also injure the shoulder.

Here are 5 common shoulder conditions that cause shoulder pain:

Rotator Cuff Conditions

Rotator cuff injury and inflammation is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that help to support and move the shoulder. Their primary role is to hold the ball of the arm bone in the socket while the arm is moved. If the tendons get pinched, they can become inflamed causing shoulder pain. Here are the three common conditions that can affect the rotator cuff:

  1. Rotator cuff tendonitis
  2. Rotator cuff impingement syndrome
  3. Rotator cuff tear

Biceps Tendonitis

Biceps tendonitis is an inflammation of the long head of the biceps tendon. It usually occurs along with other shoulder problems or when there is damage to the rotator cuff tendon.

Shoulder Bursitis

A bursa is a sac filled with fluid that helps body structures smoothly glide one over the other. There is a bursa that lies between the humerus bone and shoulder blade. This bursa can be pinched in the shoulder which leads to shoulder pain.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a shoulder condition where the shoulder becomes painful and starts to lose motion gradually. This loss of motion can cause significant shoulder pain and lead to functional loss.

Shoulder Fracture

Occurs after significant trauma. A common cause of a shoulder fracture is falling on an outstretched arm.

How Can Physical Therapy Help Shoulder Pain?

If you have shoulder pain, your physical therapist will work with you to restore your range of motion, muscle strength and coordination to get you back to your regular activities—free of shoulder pain. You may learn to modify your physical activity so that you put less stress on your shoulder. Early treatment for your shoulder pain can help speed up healing and avoid permanent damage.

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