The shoulder is designed to be mobile. It is a ball and socket joint, which allows for a wide range of movements. A lack of this motion or faulty movement can develop into pain or injury. Many people with shoulder issues are surprised when they learn that many conditions, including rotator cuff injuries, can be treated conservatively.
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The muscles that support the scapulae (shoulder blades) play a big role in neck and upper extremity health and function. Weakness or faulty movement of the scapulae contribute to abnormal stresses to the structures of the shoulder including the rotator cuff, as well as contribute to recruitment of other muscles. This becomes a compensation pattern that can lead to overuse and pain.
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The shoulder is different from most other joints in the body because it is designed to provide a great deal of movement. For example, the architecture of the shoulder joint enables us to reach up overhead, back behind the body, across the chest, and we can even rotate or arm internally and externally. When you compare the shoulder with other joints – such as the ankle, knee, or elbow, which basically move only forward and backward – it can be seen that the shoulder is indeed a joint with a lot of mobility.
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The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint. Their tendons themselves pass through a narrow space before attaching to the humerus. If that space is compromised and symptoms occur we call this Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. Shoulder Impingement Syndrome is the most prevalent cause of shoulder pain. So how is this space compromised? Although structural changes should be considered, such as arthritis or specifically bone spurring, this is rarely the cause.
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The shoulder is capable of allowing the wide range of movements as a result of the way it is formed. Basically, the shoulder joint consist of the round surface of the upper arm, called the humerus, connected to the flat surface of the shoulder blade, or scapula. This allows for a large amount of motion, but also requires tremendous stability from the surrounding soft tissues.
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