The complexity of the shoulder joint allows it to perform many different movements and activities. Anatomically, the shoulder involves three different bones – scapula, clavicle, and humerus – many connecting ligaments, and approximately 20 different muscles. The main articulation, the glenohumeral joint, is connected by ligaments & a group of muscles (& their tendon attachments) known as the rotator cuff. Problems with the rotator cuff are common causes of shoulder pain & disability.


As with other joints, shoulder problems can be caused by trauma as with sports injuries, mechanical dysfunction due to imbalances in the muscles, or by wear and tear of the tissues surrounding the joint. Arthritic changes due occur in the shoulder joint though not as commonly as the weight bearing joints of the spine, hips and knees.


Problems in the shoulder often originate in the cervical spine as the nerves from this region innervate all of the muscles and other tissues of the shoulder, arm and hand. If these nerves are irritated, the shoulder muscles can become tight or weak causing dysfunction in the normal mechanics of the joint, especially in the rotator cuff. A similar situation can occur if one overuses the shoulder in sports such as tennis and golf or other repetitive activities that causes the muscles of the joint to become overly tight or strained. People who sit too much in a slouched position or with the shoulders held forward are also at risk at developing these imbalances and shoulder problems.


Rotator Cuff Syndrome

Regardless of the reason, if the imbalances and irritation to the shoulder are not corrected, pain and limitation of normal motion will eventually develop. The severity can vary from a slight catching or pain to an almost complete inability to use the shoulder. This painful condition is often called Shoulder Impingement or Rotator Cuff Syndrome and can afflict individuals of all ages.


Frozen Shoulder

Another common problem, especially among middle age women is ” frozen shoulder. ” This often debilitating condition occurs when the ligaments and tendons of the glenohumeral joint get so irritated that adhesions develop making the joint almost stuck together. This results in an extreme limitation of shoulder motion and pain that makes it difficult for some individuals to even get dressed! Left alone frozen shoulder can take several years to resolve and therefore needs attention by a professional such as a chiropractor.

There are many other disorders of the shoulder although those mentioned above are by far the most common. More information can be found by linking to sports injuries.



The treatment of most conditions of the shoulder is basically the same. One must correct muscle imbalances with either soft tissue massage or electrotherapy modalities, restore proper mobility to the shoulder joints and of course correct any subluxations in the spine. Special rehabilitation exercises advised by your chiropractor are also essential in order for a full & fast recovery.