Get To Know Your Body: The Human Shoulder

We often hear about shoulder pain, shoulder injuries, and shoulder surgeries, but how much, would you say, you know about the shoulder? With our bodies being such complex organisms it is car to keep all of the terms strait, but those of us representing the Orthopedic Center of Arlington would like to help.

The human shoulder is a fascinating joint. Unlike a majority of the joints in your body, your shoulder is a ball and socket joint, allowing your arm to move in any direction. This compared to a hinge joint, like your elbow that can only move one of two directions. There are other joints within the human body, like gliding joints (spine) and saddle joints (thumbs). It is a common misconception that the shoulder is one joint. It is actually several joints combined with tendons and muscles to create the abilities of the human shoulder.

These abilities come at a price. Because of all of the "moving parts" within a shoulder, it is often a problematic area of the body. Problems with instability or impingement of the soft tissue can result in problems and pain. These aches and pains can be temporary, or they can be signs of damage that could be permanent without medical attention.

The Way It Works: Like we said, your shoulder is made up of a few bones, including your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle). Now, the way that the whole joint works together is that the top part of your upper arm fits into the round socket of your shoulder blade. This socket portion is called the glenoid.

In order to keep these bones held together and in place, they need the help of the surrounding muscles and tendons. This collage of tissues is called the rotator cuff.

What Happens When Things Go Wrong: As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts to this complex joint we call the humble shoulder. With a lot of moving parts, comes the possibility of problems and pain. When we look at the most common shoulder problems, they tend to fall into one of four major categories: Tendon inflammation or tearing, instability, arthritis, or fracture/breaking of the bones. It is reported that roughly 7.5 million people visited the doctor for a shoulder related problem.

When a shoulder is injured it becomes limited in the activities and movements that it can accomplish. This means that everyday tasks could become painful, or even impossible if your shoulder is damaged.

If you begin to experience shoulder pain and you want to do something yourself, you should R.I.C.E your arm. This acronym stands for:

R-rest your arm for 48 hours.
I-ice the area for 20 minutes four to eight times a day.
C-compression. You should place even pressure on the area in order to prevent swelling
E-elevate the injury above the location of your heart.

This is a simple way to start treating an injury, and it can only help the situation. This R.I.C.E method should not take place of having your doctor diagnose the problem, but can often be done before your appointment.

  • Tarrant County Medical Society
  • TexasMedical Association
  • Texas Orthopaedic Association
  • International Society Of Orthopaedic
  • Western Orthopaedic Association