Shoulder Anatomy

The shoulder is a "ball-and-socket" joint made up of the upper arm bone (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula) and collarbone (clavicle). This joint is the most flexible one in the body and allows for a full range of motion, but also makes the shoulder a common source of injury and instability.

Some of the most common shoulder conditions include:

  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Impingement
  • Rotator cuff tear
  • Instability
  • Fractures
  • Osteoarthritis

Biceps Tendinitis

The biceps tendon attaches muscles to the shoulder in two separate places and helps bend the elbow and rotate the forearm. Injury to the tendon can occur as a result of age, inactivity or over-activity, and can result in inflammation or a partial or complete tear. These injuries can cause severe pain, bruising and weakness.

Treatment for biceps tendon injuries may only require rest and anti-inflammatory medications, but more severe cases may require surgery.


A burner or stinger is a type of cervical injury that occurs when the head or neck is hit to the side, causing the shoulder to move in the opposite direction and resulting in compressions, stretching or irritation of the nerves in the area. Patients may experience neck pain that radiates down the arm, as well as muscle weakness. Most stingers or burners will heal on their own with rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and massage, while more severe cases may require cortisone injections or surgery.

Frozen Shoulder

Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is a chronic inflammation of the shoulder capsule that causes abnormal tissue growth around the area, significantly restricting movement. The cause of the condition is unknown, although some believe it may be linked to autoimmune complications. Treatment for this condition varies widely from simple non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and light physical therapy, to invasive surgery designed to release the excess scar tissue.

Muscle Imbalance

Muscle imbalance within the shoulder joint involves an over-development of muscles in one area while the opposing muscles are left weak and stretched out, which may occur as a result of everyday activities such as job duties or playing sports. If left untreated, imbalances can lead to joint dysfunction, pain and chronic injury. Muscle imbalance can be effectively managed through customized stretching exercises that target weak muscles and promote strength and flexibility.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is the thick band of muscles and tendons that covers the top of the upper arm and holds in it place, providing stability and a full range of motion to the shoulder joint. The tendons can become partially or completely torn as a result of overuse, causing pain and muscle weakness. Treatment may include rest, a sling, medication, steroid injections or surgery for severe cases.

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when the front of the shoulder blade rubs against the rotator cuff as a person lifts his/her arm, resulting in shoulder pain that radiates down the arm, as well as swelling and tenderness. It may be caused by rotator cuff injuries or bursitis, but can usually be treated using conservative methods.


Medial Epicondylitis/Golfer's Elbow

Medial epicondylitis, more commonly known as Golfer's Elbow, is a form of tendonitis that manifests on the inner side of the elbow. It is caused by the tendon in the forearm being stressed from constant use, which is common in golfers but can affect anyone. Treatment may include rest and anti-inflammatory medication, as well as cortisone injections for those seeking faster relief.

Lateral Epicondylitis/Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is an elbow injury that occurs as a result of overuse, most commonly from playing tennis. Patients with this condition may experience forearm weakness and pain during activity, which may spread through the elbow, forearm and wrist. Most cases heal on their own within two years, but can be managed with rest, ice and over-the-counter medication.

Triceps Tendinitis

Tendinitis of the triceps is the painful swelling of the arm muscle which frequently occurs in conjunction with or after a serious acute injury to the elbow joint or surrounding area. The pain is caused by an accumulation of tiny tears in the tendon, which are difficult to heal due to the naturally low blood vessel density of the tissue. Tendonitis is different from tendinosis, which is a chronic issue that maintains the same symptoms. Passive rest of the affected area is most common, but in severe, recurring cases, surgery may be necessary.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition involving numbness, pain, tingling and instability in the wrist, hand and fingers. It occurs when pressure is put on a nerve in the wrist called the median nerve, which controls motor function in the wrist and hand. Carpal tunnel can often be effectively treated with nonsurgical therapies such as wrist splints, anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids. In cases where pain and numbness persist, surgery (usually endoscopic surgery) may be necessary to relieve pressure on the nerve.

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