Tendons In The Shoulder

By Liz Brabston

Tendons in the Shoulder

The shoulder joint is the most complex 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, 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.

illustration of anatomy of Tendons of the shoulder

Shoulder Tendons and Ligaments

 

What Tendons are in the Shoulder?

The quick answer is there are many tendons in the shoulder as this is a complex joint.  Some tendons make up the rotator cuff, which connects the scapula to the humerus and allows 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.  The humerus fitting into the glenoid cavity loosely allows for greater ROM, which can also lead to more injuries.  With overuse of tendons of the shoulder, tendonitis or tendinitis can develop.

Shoulder Tendons and Ligaments

A group of muscles and ligaments surrounds the shoulder. The ligaments connect the bones of the shoulder, and tendons connect the bones to the muscles. Ligaments in the shoulder provide stability for the shoulder.  Often when the ligaments are damaged by injury, the shoulder joint can be very unstable, which causes several problems.

What Causes Shoulder Tendon Injuries?

Multiple injuries 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 the range of motion and mobility.
  • Shoulder Tendonitis:
    • This occurs when the tendons in the shoulder inflame.  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 pressure the tendons in the shoulder and cause pain.
illustration of anatomy of Rotator Cuff Tendons

Rotator Cuff Tendons

  • Rotator Cuff Tear:
    • Injury to the rotator cuff is is 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 to tear.
      • Teres Minor.
      • Infraspinatus.

Multiple causes can cause injury to the shoulder.  Repetitive movements 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 with the aging process. 

Treating Shoulder Tendons

For adhesive capsulitis, shoulder tendonitis, shoulder impingement, and some rotator cuff tears, stretching and strengthening the muscles is very important.  As therapists, we want to increase mobility and strength by using Thera bands, dumbbells, and mobilization techniques. Therefore, we can decrease pain and improve range of motion and functional mobility.  However, some shoulder injuries may 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.
  • 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.  Our goal is to return you to your prior level of life and function.

JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP fracture and injury care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click below.   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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