The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body. You use this ball and socket joint for throwing and catching, bowling and swinging — and with such vigorous use, it’s no wonder that many people develop shoulder problems.
One survey found that shoulder pain affects 18-26% of adults in their lifetime. With such a large and well-used joint, it comes as no surprise it can be prone to injury.
Physiotherapy can help some injuries. Others may require surgery.
Anatomy of the shoulder
The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, or in medical terms, the glenohumeral joint. It consists of five joints and three bones: the clavicle (collar bone), scapula (shoulder blade) and humerus (upper arm). A fluid-filled capsule encases the joint to help prevent friction.
Soft tissue, and a group of muscles called the rotator cuff, surrounds the joint. This structure keeps the shoulder stable and strong, whilst remaining flexible.
The shoulder works with the pectoral girdle to allow for a wide range of motion. A healthy shoulder should be able to move through all possible movements without pain.
The shoulder is capable of:
- External/lateral rotation
- Internal/medial rotation
How to look after your shoulders
There are many ways you can take care of your shoulders to prevent injury and pain.
- Strengthen the muscles around the shoulder
- Warm up before exercise
- Maintain good posture
What causes shoulder pain
There can be many reasons for shoulder pain. Pain may be due to an injury, overuse, inflammation or a degenerative disease. With so many components involved in the shoulder, it could be down to muscles, ligaments, tendons, fluid, cartilage or the joint itself.
A problem in the neck or acromioclavicular joint may also cause pain in the shoulder.
A specialist will be able to perform a thorough assessment of the shoulder and advise what is causing your pain.
How to help shoulder pain
Talk to your Pharmacist or GP about over-the-counter pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs. Your GP will also be able to assess the shoulder and refer you to relevant professionals for scans and further checks. In the meantime, they may suggest you rest your shoulder and avoid exercises that aggravate symptoms.
Physiotherapy is a good early intervention to help shoulder pain. A Physiotherapist will be able to prescribe exercises and perform manual therapies. Injections to help ease pain and inflammation could be an option too.
If physiotherapy doesn’t help shoulder pain, then surgery may be necessary. Of course, this will depend on the condition.
Common shoulder injuries
- Cartilage tear
- Rotator cuff tear
- Frozen shoulder
Common shoulder surgeries
- Shoulder Arthroscopy
- Shoulder Replacement
- SLAP Repair
- Rotator Cuff Repair
You can find out more about these surgeries and what’s involved by visiting our Patient Resource Centre.