The Shoulder

In most of our daily activities, we require the use of our hands and upper limbs to allow us to complete daily tasks such as reaching, lifting, pulling and pushing loads.  We use our hands above shoulder level and below knee level.  Both positions and others inbetween involve our shoulder muscles getting our hands into the correct position to perform the task.  Therefore, our shoulder muscles are very important in the muscular tasks of upper limb movement.

Anatomically, the shoulder joint complex is the most mobile joint in the body.  By being such a mobile joint, though this leads to a compromise in stability and it is therefore a commonly injured joint.

The basic anatomy of the shoulder comprises the glenohumeral joint (the ball and socket) with other joints formed by the clavicle (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blade) making up the shoulder complex.


Muscles surrounding the joint include the rotator cuff, a group of muscles which stabilise the shoulder.

Shoulder injuries can include acromioclacicular joint (ac joint) sprain, shoulder dislocations, fractures and muscle ruptures. Traumatic shoulder injuries are common in sport, and are a frequent presentation that require rehabilitation.  In some cases, surgery may be required, and rehabilitation afterwards by a shoulder physio is vital to ensure a good outcome.

A common shoulder injury seen by Physiotherapists is ‘impingement syndrome’. This is where the tendons of the rotator cuff become impinged between the collar bone and the humerus. This can cause inflammation of the tendon (tendonitis) or bursa (bursitis) Causes can include overuse – often seen in swimmers and in throwing sports, poor posture and muscle imbalances. Early diagnosis and treatment by a shoulder physio can improve recovery time, and reduce the likely of reoccurrence.

Signs of a shoulder impingement syndrome include shoulder pain at the front of the and occasionally down the arm, shoulder pain lifting your arm overhead, reaching and carrying and pain sleeping on your side at night.

Treatment by a shoulder physiotherapist may include soft tissue release for tight muscles, mobilisations for stiff joints and retraining of muscles to correct imbalance. Self help measures should involve the use of ice packs and rest from aggravating activities.

There are many more common shoulder injuries, make sure you have any shoulder pains assessed by your shoulder physiotherapist immediately.

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