Shoulder pain is quite common among all individuals, no matter the activity or lack thereof. Some issues come in and out, while others never go away becoming chronic. Being aware of these issues when they first arise, is important in minimizing the potential long term damage you may be doing. Having some foundational movements that will work to “bulletproof” your joints is important. As catchy as the term “bulletproof” is, small issues will always arise from time to time. However, having the intention to strengthen our shoulders and joints to minimize the potential of bigger issues and proactively deal with small issues as they arise will lead to incredibly healthy joints that will be able to withstand the beating they take throughout life.

Basic Understanding of the Shoulder

Shoulder Girdle

Understand that the shoulder joint (ball and socket) is the most mobile joint in the body. The high level of mobility provides us with a large range of motion that includes, adduction, abduction, flexion, extension, internal rotation, external rotation, and a 360 degree rotation. The relationship with the AC Joint is also important as this is typically where people experience a “Separated shoulder” which is normally related to soft tissue damage. In addition, the scapula or shoulder blade forms the posterior(back) of the shoulder girdle, which allows for scapular protraction, retraction, elevation, and depression. This wide range of motion makes the shoulder unstable and the instability will be compensated for by the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and labrum attached to it.

Muscle Attachments

The attachment to several groups of muscles includes the intrinsic muscles of the scapula, the rotator cuff muscles, teres major, subscapularis, teres minor, and infraspinatus. These muscles attach to the surface of the scapula assisting with abduction, external and internal rotation of the shoulder joint. The triceps, biceps, and deltoid make up the extrinsic muscles. Lastly, there are the levator scapulae, trapezius, rhomboids, and serratus anterior that are responsible for rotational movements and stabilization of the scapula.

Start by Understanding

We should have a basic understanding in order to assess and interpret the causes of shoulder pain and dysfunction. For this, we should think of all the possible movements of the shoulder girdle and combinations (as mentioned above) of those movements as well as the muscles used (primary/secondary) of the movements.

We will typically focus on the three main joints (Scapula, AC joint and Shoulder joint) including all the muscle attachments mentioned above. There are a number of reasons as to “WHY” an individual may be experiencing some issues with their shoulder girdle so this is purely intended to get you started in building awareness and start your corrective process. Many individuals will experience one or some issues with the muscles and tendons attached to the joints. Unless you have experienced some trauma, these issues are also typically accumulated over a length of time. They can get overworked and/or get overactive and the tension that is being demonstrated by the tissue can linger and persist.

Additionally, the opposite of the tension (relaxed or passive) can also be an issue as they can be underactive or do not engage at a level necessary to balance out the issues you may be experiencing. These issues can be purely musculature related but neurological issues that arise from under or overuse may play a part. Think of the body as having components that work opposite of each other so when you are gaining better understanding of why you may be experiencing a particular issue, you are not looking at the problem only from a small and isolated perspective.

*Informational purposes only. It is advised to seek Professional attention before beginning any exercise or nutritional program.