Tendons In The Shoulder

By Liz Brabston

Tendons in the Shoulder

Tendons and Ligaments in the shoulder

Shoulder Tendons and Ligaments

Overview of Tendons 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 Tendons are in the Shoulder?

The quick answer is there are many tendons in the shoulder 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.  When tendons are overused, tendonitis or tendinitis can develop.

Shoulder Tendons and Ligaments

The shoulder is surrounded by a group of muscles and ligaments. 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?

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 Tendons

Rotator Cuff Tendons

  • 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.

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

Physical therapy can help heal shoulder tendons and ligaments

JOI Physical Therapy can help with Shoulder Pain

For adhesive capsulitis, shoulder tendonitis, shoulder impingement, and some rotator cuff tears, stretching and strengthening the muscles is very important.  As a therapist 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 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.  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.

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By: Liz Brabston

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