The complex joint: The shoulder

The complex joint: The shoulder

The shoulder is one of the most difficult joints to treat as it relies on many components to act in sync for correct function. We as humans are so dominant in the use of our hands to manipulate and move items, making the shoulder so important as this is the main joint that places our hands in functional positions. This evolution to become a particularly mobile joint creates instability issues. To counteract this the body has then used additional structures to help keep the shoulder stable.

Elevation of the arm at the shoulder is through movement at 2 joints: the gleno-humeral joint (the ball and socket part), as well as the shoulder blade moving around the chest wall (scapulo-thoracic joint). A well functioning gleno-humeral joint is very reliant on good shoulder blade control to get it into a position to work effectively. There is a group of four muscles that attach on the shoulder blade and rotate the arm at the shoulder as well as stabilize the gleno-humeral joint: this is the rotator cuff.

Some of the common issues for those under 30 years of age are: cartilage tears, shoulder dislocations, overuse injuries and impingement issues. Then between 30 and 50 we can have all number of shoulder issues as rotator cuff injuries become more prevalent. After age 50, the most common issue is a tear in a tendon of the rotator cuff muscle group. Unfortunately the shoulder will deteriorate over time and once we get into the second half of our lives, it’s likely that you will be suffering from a shoulder problem, or if you don’t it is not far away.

Shoulder injuries can be prevented through good muscle control and proper exercise programs and techniques. If you have any concerns about whether your shoulder is functioning correctly then do get it properly assessed as fixing it now may well prolong the onset of your shoulder problems.

Published October 1, 2012


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