Unveiling the Complexity and Mobility of the Shoulder

The human shoulder, renowned for its exceptional mobility, is the most flexible joint in the body. It's a complex structure comprising three critical bones: the clavicle (collarbone), scapula (shoulder blade), and humerus (upper arm bone). This intricate network of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments work seamlessly to facilitate a vast range of movements.

What is the structure of a healthy shoulder?

Two pivotal joints enable the shoulder's broad range of motion. The acromioclavicular joint links the acromion (the upper segment of the shoulder blade) to the collarbone and the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint), a ball-and-socket mechanism that connects the upper arm to the shoulder blade.

This design empowers the arm with an impressive ability to rotate in a circular fashion.

Despite its remarkable flexibility, the shoulder joint is inherently unstable due to the discrepancy between the size of the humerus (the ball) and the glenoid (the socket) that accommodates it. However, this instability is affected by the robust support system of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that keep the shoulder bones anchored. Tendons, tough cords of tissue, fasten muscles to the bone, while ligaments tether bones together, providing stability.

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What is the rotator cuff?

One of the shoulder's key components is the rotator cuff, a quartet of muscles and their associated tendons. This group forms a protective sleeve that holds the humerus tightly in the shoulder socket (glenoid fossa), delivering both mobility and strength to the shoulder joint.

Additionally, two sac-like structures known as bursae facilitate smooth gliding between bone, muscle, and tendon, providing cushioning and protection to the rotator cuff from the scapula's upper part.

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Causes of shoulder pain

Shoulder pain can be attributed to a variety of causes, both acute and chronic. It's essential to understand the different potential sources of this discomfort to address and treat it effectively.

  • Soft tissue injuries: These encompass damage to the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the shoulder. They can occur because of trauma, overuse, or even underuse.
  • Joint damage: This usually manifests as pain during arm elevation and may cause instability in the shoulder.
  • Impingement: This is common in athletes who perform repetitive overhead arm motions. Impingement occurs when soft tissues are trapped between bones.
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common cause of shoulder pain. It involves the gradual breakdown of joint cartilage and often develops years after an injury that led to joint instability and damage.

Each of these causes can lead to common symptoms such as stiffness, strength loss, or a sensation of the shoulder slipping out of place. It's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional if you're experiencing persistent shoulder pain.

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Shoulder pain treatment and replacement procedures

Treatment for shoulder pain can vary based on the diagnosis. Some options include:

  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Shoulder joint fluid supplements, which are injections that provide temporary pain relief
  • Total shoulder joint replacement

Shoulder replacement surgery may be considered when severe joint pain and stiffness impact daily activities and other treatments have failed to provide adequate relief.

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Shoulder replacement surgery

While less common than knee or hip replacements, shoulder replacements can offer significant benefits, including reducing joint pain and restoring normal joint movement.

The artificial shoulder joint used in this procedure can consist of two or three parts:

  • The humeral component (metal)
  • The humeral head component (metal)
  • The glenoid component (plastic)

There are two types of shoulder replacement surgeries

Partial shoulder replacement

Performed when the glenoid socket is intact. The procedure involves implanting the humeral component and replacing the humeral head.

Total shoulder replacement

Done when the glenoid socket is damaged and needs replacement. All three components are used in this procedure.

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What's involved in shoulder surgery?

During shoulder replacement surgery, certain parts of your shoulder joint are removed and replaced with a prosthesis or artificial joint. The artificial shoulder joint can have either two or three parts, depending on the type of surgery:

  • The humeral component (metal) is implanted in the humerus, or upper arm bone.
  • The humeral head component (metal) replaces the humeral head at the top of the humerus.
  • The glenoid component (plastic) replaces the surface of the glenoid socket (shoulder socket).
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Why choose us for shoulder issues?

When it comes to your health, you want to put your trust in the best. Our team of doctors are highly trained surgeons from top-tier schools, including Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia. Each one is a board-certified specialist with fellowship training, ensuring that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to provide outstanding care.

Not only do our patients love our doctors, but they also experience positive outcomes from their treatments.

Our commitment to patient satisfaction is evident in everything we do, from our bilingual services in English and Spanish to our dedication to using the latest advances and most precise techniques available.

Our team's credentials speak for themselves. Beyond their accomplishments, our doctors work as part of a multidisciplinary team with a single focus: restoring your health, mobility, and lifestyle. They bring their expertise in sports medicine, trauma, hand and wrist, foot and ankle, and joint replacements to this team, ensuring that you receive comprehensive care tailored to your needs.

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