Tendons In The Shoulder

By Liz Brabston

Tendons in the Shoulder

Ligaments In The Shoulder build stability in the shoulder.

Shoulder anatomy and Ligaments In The Shoulder.


The shoulder joint is the most complex joint in the body.  It is often referred to as a ball and socket joint.  You can picture the head of the humerus as a ball and the glenoid cavity which is a part of the scapula as a tee.  This allows the head of the humerus to glide in many directions allowing for greater mobility but less stability.  Due to the shoulder having less stability, the tendons in the shoulder can be injured.  In this article, you will find information regarding tendons in the shoulder, various types of injuries to the tendons and some of the causes, and how to be diagnosed. 

What are Tendons?

Tendons are strong fibrous collagen that connects muscles to bones and can exert a pulling force to allow for movement.  Tendons can be found throughout the body, helping with your ability to move on a daily basis.

What Tendons are in the Shoulder?

In the shoulder, there are many tendons as this is a complex joint.  There are tendons that make up the rotator cuff which is what connects the scapula to the humerus and allow for shoulder movement.   These tendons connect the four muscles and they are the following:  the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and the subscapularis.  The shoulder also has many other tendons, but these are the primary tendons that stabilize the shoulder and allow the humerus to sit in the glenoid cavity.  Due to the humerus fitting into the glenoid cavity loosely, it allows for greater ROM which can also lead to more injuries.

Shoulder Tendons and Injuries

There are multiple injuries that can occur in the shoulder. Below is a list of some of the injuries that can happen in the shoulder. 

  • Adhesive Capsulitis:
    • This injury occurs to the capsule that surrounds the shoulder joint and can limit range of motion and mobility.
  • Shoulder Tendonitis:
    • This occurs when the tendons in the shoulder are inflamed.  This can be caused by overuse and the tendons eventually become damaged.
  • Shoulder Impingement:
    • The scapula has a bony part called the acromion which can put pressure on the tendons in the shoulder and cause pain.
  • Rotator Cuff Tear:
    • Injury to the rotator cuff is referred to a rotate cuff tear and the tear can be in any of these four muscles or the tear can be in multiple tendons:
      • Subscapularis.
      • Supraspinatus- this is the most common tendon of the shoulder that is torn.
      • Teres Minor.
      • Infraspinatus.

Causes of Injuries to Tendons in the Shoulder

There are multiple causes that can cause injury to the shoulder.  Repetitive movement such as throwing a ball and overhead activities are the most common causes as these movements can cause the tendons to wear down.  Other causes can be related to an acute injury such as a fall, or be caused by degenerative changes that can occur with the aging process. 

Treating Shoulder Tendons

Depending on the type of injury, there are multiple ways to rehab the tendons in the shoulder.  For adhesive capsulitis, shoulder tendonitis, shoulder impingement, and some rotator cuff tears, stretching and strengthening the muscles and increasing mobility using Thera bands, dumbbells, and mobilization techniques can decrease pain and improve range of motion and functional mobility.  Some shoulder injuries, however, will require surgery.  

Signs and Symptoms of Shoulder Tendon Injuries

If you are having difficulty with any of the following, make an appointment with an orthopedist:

  • Lifting your arm up.
  • Pain that can include a deep ache.
  • Popping.
  • Difficulty sleeping for more than a few days.
  • Shoulder stiffness.

An orthopedist can perform special shoulder tests, or order an x-ray, MRI to diagnose you. From there, physical therapy can help you with regaining motion, strength, and decreasing pain to that you can return to your prior level of life. 

JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP fracture and injury care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care.

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician.

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By: Liz Brabston

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