The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body enabling a wide range of movements including, forward flexion, abduction, adduction, external rotation, internal rotation, and 360-degree circumduction.
Thus, the shoulder joint is considered the most insecure joint of the body but the support of ligaments, muscles and tendons function to provide the required stability.
Bones of the Shoulder
The shoulder is a ball and socket joint made up of three bones, namely the humerus, scapula and clavicle.
The end of the humerus or upper arm bone forms the ball of the shoulder joint. An irregular shallow cavity in the scapula called the glenoid cavity forms the socket for the head of the humerus to fit in. The two bones together form the glenohumeral joint, which is the main joint of the shoulder.
The scapula is a flat triangular-shaped bone that forms the shoulder blade. It serves as the site of attachment for most of the muscles that provide movement and stability to the joint. The scapula has four bony processes - acromion, spine, coracoid and glenoid cavity. The acromion and coracoid process serve as places for attachment of the ligaments and tendons.
The clavicle bone or collarbone is an S-shaped bone that connects the scapula to the sternum or breastbone. It forms two joints: the acromioclavicular joint, where it articulates with the acromion process of the scapula, and the sternoclavicular joint where it articulates with the sternum or breast bone. The clavicle also forms a protective covering for important nerves and blood vessels that pass under it from the spine to the arms.
Soft Tissues of the Shoulder
The ends of all articulating bones are covered by smooth tissue called articular cartilage which allows the bones to slide over each other without friction enabling smooth movement. Articular cartilage reduces pressure and acts as a shock absorber during movement of the shoulder bones.
Extra stability to the glenohumeral joint is provided by the glenoid labrum, a ring of fibrous cartilage that surrounds the glenoid cavity. The glenoid labrum increases the depth and surface area of the glenoid cavity to provide a more secure fit for the half-spherical head of the humerus.
Ligaments of the Shoulder
Ligaments are the thick strands of fibers that connect one bone to another. The ligaments of the shoulder joint include:
- Coraco-clavicular ligaments: These ligaments connect the collarbone to the shoulder blade at the coracoid process.
- Acromio-clavicular ligament: This connects the collarbone to the shoulder blade at the acromion process.
- Coraco-acromial ligament: It connects the acromion process to the coracoid process.
- Glenohumeral ligaments: A group of 3 ligaments that form a capsule around the shoulder joint, and connect the head of the arm bone to the glenoid cavity of the shoulder blade. The capsule forms a water-tight sac around the joint. Glenohumeral ligaments play a very important role in providing stability to the otherwise unstable shoulder joint by preventing dislocation.
Muscles of the Shoulder
The rotator cuff is the main group of muscles in the shoulder joint and is comprised of 4 muscles. The rotator cuff forms a sleeve around the humeral head and glenoid cavity, providing additional stability to the shoulder joint while enabling a wide range of mobility.
The deltoid muscle forms the outer layer of the rotator cuff and is the largest and strongest muscle of the shoulder joint.
Tendons of the Shoulder
Tendons are strong tissues that join muscle to bone allowing the muscle to control the movement of the bone or joint. Two important groups of tendons in the shoulder joint are the biceps tendons and rotator cuff tendons.
Bicep tendons are the two tendons that join the bicep muscle of the upper arm to the shoulder. They are referred to as the long head and short head of the bicep.
Rotator cuff tendons are a group of four tendons that join the head of the humerus to the deeper muscles of the rotator cuff. These tendons provide more stability and mobility to the shoulder joint.
Nerves of the Shoulder
Nerves carry messages from the brain to muscles to direct movement (motor nerves) and send information about different sensations such as touch, temperature and pain from the muscles back to the brain (sensory nerves). The nerves of the arm pass through the shoulder joint from the neck.
These nerves form a bundle at the region of the shoulder called the brachial plexus. The main nerves of the brachial plexus are the musculocutaneous, axillary, radial, ulnar and median nerves.
Blood vessels of the Shoulder
Blood vessels travel along with the nerves to supply blood to the arms. Oxygenated blood is supplied to the shoulder region by the subclavian artery that runs below the collarbone. As it enters the region of the armpit, it is called the axillary artery and further down the arm, it is called the brachial artery. The main veins carrying de-oxygenated blood back to the heart for purification include:
- Axillary vein: this vein drains into the subclavian vein
- Cephalic vein: this vein is found in the upper arm and branches at the elbow into the forearm region. It drains into the axillary vein.
- Basilic vein: this vein runs opposite the cephalic vein, near the triceps muscle. It drains into the axillary vein.
Pain in the shoulder suggests a shoulder injury which is more common in athletes participating in sports such as swimming, tennis, pitching and weightlifting. The injuries are caused due to the over usage or repetitive motion of the arms.
Rotator Cuff Tear
The rotator cuff is a group of tendons in the shoulder joint providing support and enabling a wide range of motion. Major injury to these tendons may result in tear of these tendons, a condition called rotator cuff tear. It is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain in middle aged adults and older individuals.
Arthritis of the Shoulder
The term arthritis literally means inflammation of a joint but is generally used to describe any condition in which there is damage to the cartilage. Damage of the cartilage in the shoulder joint causes shoulder arthritis. Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury. The warning signs that inflammation presents are redness, swelling, heat and pain.
Scapular winging mostly happens when a muscle called the serratus anterior or its nerve, the long thoracic nerve, gets damaged. It can also happen when the shoulder is unstable and dislocates frequently or if the shoulder is painful for some other reason causing you to move it abnormally.
Calcific tendinosis is the abnormal deposition of calcium in the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuff muscles are a group of muscles that surround and stabilize the shoulder joint. When tendon cells die, scar tissue is normally formed. However, sometimes the body responds by depositing calcium which irritates the tendon and surrounding tissues causing pain. These calcium deposits are visible on X-rays and are occasionally present without pain.
The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. A 'ball' at the top of the upper arm bone (the humerus) fits neatly into a 'socket', called the glenoid, which is part of the shoulder blade (scapula). The term SLAP (superior –labrum anterior-posterior) lesion or SLAP tear refers to an injury of the superior labrum of the shoulder. The labrum is a ring of fibrous cartilage surrounding the glenoid for stabilization of the shoulder joint.
Acromioclavicular Joint Dislocation
Acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) dislocation or shoulder separation is one of the most common injuries of the upper arm. It involves separation of the AC joint and injury to the ligaments that support the joint. The AC joint forms where the clavicle (collarbone) meets the shoulder blade (acromion).
Shoulder impingement is the condition of inflammation of the tendons of the shoulder joint. It is one of the most common causes of pain in the adult shoulder. The shoulder is a 'ball-and-socket' joint. A ‘ball' at the top of the upper arm bone, humerus, fits neatly into a 'socket’, called the glenoid, which is part of the shoulder blade or scapula.
Shoulder instability is a chronic condition that causes frequent dislocations of the shoulder joint.
A dislocation occurs when the end of the humerus (the ball portion) partially or completely dislocates from the glenoid (the socket portion) of the shoulder.
Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by pain and loss of motion in the shoulder joint. It is more common in older adults aged between 40 and 60 years and is more common in women than men.
Frozen shoulder is caused by inflammation of the ligaments holding the shoulder bones to each other.
Shoulder Labrum Tear
Traumatic injury to the shoulder or overuse of shoulder (throwing, weightlifting) may cause labral tear. In addition, ageing may weaken the labrum leading to injury.
Your doctor may start with conservative approaches such as prescribing anti-inflammatory medications and advise rest to relieve symptoms until diagnostic scans are done.
Clavicle fracture, also called broken collarbone, is a very common sports injury seen in people who are involved in contact sports such as football and martial arts as well as impact sports such as motor racing. A direct blow over the shoulder that may occur during a fall on an outstretched arm or a motor vehicle accident may cause the clavicle bone to break.
The scapula (shoulder blade) is a flat, triangular bone providing attachment to the muscles of the back, neck, chest and arm. The scapula has a body, neck and spine portion.
Scapular fractures are uncommon but do occur and require a large amount of force to fracture.
Biceps Tendon Rupture
The biceps tendon is a tough band of connective fibrous tissue that attaches your biceps muscle to the bones in your shoulder on one side and the elbow on the other side. Two tendons attach the biceps muscle to the bones in the shoulder, the long-head tendon that attaches the muscle to the top of the shoulder's socket (glenoid) and the short-head that attaches it to the shoulder blade.
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive diagnostic and surgical procedure performed for joint problems. Shoulder arthroscopy is performed using a pencil-sized instrument called an arthroscope. The arthroscope consists of a light system and camera to project images onto a computer screen for your surgeon to view the surgical site.
Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair
Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is a minimally invasive surgery performed through tiny incisions, about 1 cm each, with an arthroscope.
The arthroscope is a small fiber-optic viewing instrument made up of a tiny lens, light source and video camera.
Superior Capsular Reconstruction
The shoulder joint is stabilized by the joint capsule and rotator cuff. Tears to the rotator cuff can cause severe pain and impairment. When defects in the underlying upper joint capsule add to the instability caused by rotator cuff tears, it cannot be repaired with conventional treatments. Superior capsular reconstruction is a surgical procedure performed to restore shoulder stability in irreparable rotator cuff tears.
Shoulder Labrum Reconstruction
The labrum is a ring of fibrous cartilage surrounding the glenoid, which helps in stabilizing the shoulder joint. The biceps tendon is attached inside the shoulder joint at the superior labrum of the joint. The biceps tendon is a long cord-like structure which attaches the biceps muscle to the shoulder and helps to stabilize the joint.
A SLAP repair is indicated to treat the torn labrum of the shoulder socket when conservative treatment measures such as NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) and physical therapy do not relieve the symptoms of a SLAP tear.
Shoulder stabilization surgery is done to improve stability and function to the shoulder joint and prevent recurrent dislocations. It can be performed arthroscopically, depending on your particular condition, with much smaller incisions. Arthroscopic stabilization is a surgical procedure to treat chronic instability of the shoulder joint.
The shoulder joint provides a wide range of movement to the upper extremity, but overuse or trauma can cause instability to the joint. The Latarjet procedure is a surgical procedure performed to treat shoulder instability by relocating a piece of bone with an attached tendon to the shoulder joint.
Shoulder Joint Replacement
Total shoulder replacement surgery is performed to relieve these symptoms. In this surgery, the damaged articulating parts of the shoulder joint are removed and replaced with artificial prostheses. Replacement of both the humeral head and the socket is called a total shoulder replacement.
Partial Shoulder Replacement
Partial shoulder replacement, also called shoulder hemiarthroplasty, is a surgical procedure during which the upper bone in the arm (humerus) is replaced with a prosthetic metal implant, whereas the other half of the shoulder joint (glenoid or socket) is left intact.
Minimally Invasive Shoulder Joint Replacement
Shoulder joint replacement is a surgical procedure to replace damaged bone surfaces with artificial components to relieve pain and improve functional ability in the shoulder joint. Shoulder joint replacement can be done by a traditional "open" approach or through a minimally invasive approach. The incision in minimally invasive shoulder joint replacement is about 5 cm compared to 17 cm with the traditional approach.
Failed Prior Shoulder Surgery
Failed shoulder surgery is a surgery that did not meet expectations and resulted in recurring pain or other unwanted symptoms. All surgeries are associated with risks, some have a higher risk than others. The most commonly reported failed shoulder surgeries include rotator cuff repairs and shoulder stabilization for shoulder instability.