Pain and restricted movement of the shoulder is a common form of disability – in fact, it’s the third most common joint to injure, with 1% of all adult GP consultations down to this problem.
It can be due to arthritis in the shoulder joint or can be due to damage or degeneration of the muscles, tendons, capsule or ligaments that support the shoulder. There are also shoulder impingement syndromes (discussed in our previous blog) and people can develop a frozen shoulder, which means that there is little or no movement at all as the capsule can stick together with inflammation, thus creating the freeze.
The rotator cuff is the group of muscles that surround the shoulder. It keeps the ball in the joint socket and allows a large range of motion in the shoulder. Damage caused by falls, sporting injuries or work-related injuries can result in tears to one or more of the rotator cuff muscles or their tendons. Tendons have a very limited blood supply and often fail to heal completely which can lead to chronic pain and dysfunction.
But why is it so common?
If you really look into the anatomy of a human, you’ll notice three bones make up the joint in question…
The humerus (or arm bone) forms a ball that articulates with a shallow cup called the glenoid fossa, which is part of the scapula/shoulder blade. The three bones are the clavicle/collar bone, which form a joint with the acromion of the scapula – this is the joint you can feel at the top of your shoulder.
In order to perform those everyday tasks, even basic ones, we have to sacrifice some stability for mobility or movement. There are a few ligaments in the shoulder, but the main strength comes from muscles surrounding the shoulder. Hence why it’s so prone to injury…
Having to do a lot movement over a lifetime means the muscles in this area can develop tears, and naturally the tendons will degenerate with age. This is particularly problematic for those 35 years old or older.
There are a number of potential treatment options depending on the cause of the shoulder pain – of course it depends on the problem.
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