Shoulders – The joint and common conditions

If you’ve ever had shoulder pain, you can understand how difficult and restricted your daily activities feel! If you’ve never had pain in your shoulders, please put your hands on them and thank them for the immense physical (and emotional) loads they carry every day. Let’s give the joint it’s due with this blog.


The Joint


The round and bony part of what you would typically call “the shoulder” is just the humerus – the long bone between your elbow and your shoulder joint. Sometimes the joint is called a “girdle” or “a shoulder complex” as it is made up of several bones meeting and balancing like a house of cards. Your collarbone meets your shoulder blade which meets your humerus; any issues with these bones can result in issues through the shoulders, back, chest, neck or whole arm.

The whole shoulder girdle is designed for lots of movement, most of that is due to the shape of the joint. Think of a golf ball sitting on a tee: lots of movement available but not a lot of stability and this is where we start to find problems with your shoulders. With some 13 or so muscles that pull the humerus this way and that, one tight muscle can change the balance in the whole shoulder girdle. From joint dislocations to chronic rounding of the shoulders with desk work, the movement your shoulders allows can be liberating or cause you a lot of pain.


Common Conditions


Since we generally use our arms for many of our daily activities, injuries of the shoulder will usually come about from overuse. Here is a quick overview of a few conditions our Osteopaths commonly see in our clinic:

Shoulder Impingement

  • Painful entrapment of the soft tissue in a narrow space within the shoulder
  • Pain with movement, particularly lifting arms overhead
  • Will often occur in conjunction with rotator cuff tendinopathy


  • Tendon = connection between bone and muscle
  • Can be inflammation or tear of the tendon
  • Commonly affects biceps or rotator cuff (shoulder blade) muscles
  • Mostly from overhead work, overuse and over loaded muscles


  • Pain at night, can feel like a dull burning ache
  • Bursa = fluid filled sacs between tendons designed to stop friction
  • Usually due to increased friction from tight muscles and repetitive overuse
  • Inflammation, swelling, tender to touch
  • Responds well to rest and appropriate manual therapy

Adhesive Capsulitis (Frozen shoulder)

  • Massive restriction of shoulder movement
  • Pain and stiffness
  • Thickening and tightening of tissues in shoulder
  • Can come about spontaneously or post-surgery
  • More common in women, ages 40-60
  • Increased risk of Frozen shoulder with Diabetes
Experiencing shoulder pain or restriction?

Book an appointment online with one of experienced Osteopaths or Myotherapists today.

Call (03) 9570 3388