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The shoulder: an anatomical wonder!



The shoulder is a complex region of the body, often thought of as where the arm connects to the trunk. However, many more structures make up what we, as PTs know as the shoulder complex! The shoulder is comprised of four joints:

  1. The glenohumeral joint (GH), which is where the humerus (upper arm bone) attaches to the scapula (shoulder blade) at the glenoid fossa

  • Fun Fact: this is considered the most mobile and least stable joint in the body


  1. The acromioclavicular joint (AC), which is where the clavicle (collar bone) attaches to the scapula

  2. The sternoclavicular joint (SC) which is where the clavicle (collar bone) attaches to the sternum (chest bone)

  3. The scapulothoracic joint (ST), which is where the shoulder blade (scapula) moves across the ribs in the thoracic region (mid-back) of our spine

All of these joints work together to allow for shoulder movement. The shoulder has many degrees of freedom or a vast range of motion due to the GH joint being a ball and socket. However, the GH joint is also more prone to injury and instability due to the extensive range of motion.

Many muscles make up the shoulder complex—a group of which is commonly known as the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff comprises the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. Other shoulder muscles include the pec minor and major, the deltoid, the triceps, the biceps, and many others! Click here to see where these muscles are located!

As we can see, the shoulder is a very complex body region. As such, when we experience shoulder injury or shoulder pain, it is essential to identify which structures are compromised. When rehabbing the shoulder, it is vital to restore the mechanics of the individually injured structures while also restoring how each structure works alongside the complex.

We often work with folks who have developed shoulder pain over time rather than an acute injury (although we see these individuals as well). Typically chronic shoulder pain results from an imbalance between the muscles that make up the shoulder and can often be caused by poor posture. Thankfully, restoring the balance of the shoulder complex is reasonably straightforward, with some easy mobility drills and consistent strength training.

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If you have questions about your shoulder pain or want to learn how to keep your shoulders healthy, strong, and stable, reach out! We are here to help.We are here when you are ready, Nicole and the OMPT team Want workouts specific to your activity? Reach out for a customized plan.


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