Your Shoulder Anatomy and Common Causes of Pain

A working knowledge of one’s shoulder is paramount to properly diagnosing pain or discomfort. Many people don’t realize just how complex our shoulders actually are—they’re comprised of many different bones, muscles, joints, and tendons, which is what makes them such an important part of our bodies.

And when you truly understand how each part of our shoulder operates, you may have a better idea of where any shoulder pain is originating from. So, let’s take a closer look at your shoulder anatomy. Here are the biggest components of your shoulders.

The Rotator Cuff

Let’s start off with a big one. We’ve blogged about the rotator cuff before, but it’s an important part of your shoulder. It allows your shoulder to rotate, giving your arm a wide range of motion from front to back.

Comprised of four muscles and tendons surrounding the glenohumeral joint, the rotator cuff is crucial to any kind of shoulder movement. Rotator cuff pain is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. It is usually the result of strain, or in some cases, a tear from an acute injury. Many rotator cuff injuries simply require physical therapy, not surgery, but it’s always best to consult with a doctor just in case.

Shoulder Bones

There are three bones that make up the shoulder. They are the humerus (the arm bone), the scapula (the shoulder blade), and the clavicle (the collarbone). The scapula contains a little divot that serves as the socket—known as the glenoid. It’s covered with smooth cartilage.

The top of the humerus fits into the glenoid, and is known as the glenohumeral joint. On the opposite side of the scapula, on a part of the shoulder known as the acromion, there is another joint that connects it to the collarbone. This is the acromioclavicular joint.

The Shoulder Capsule

Where the top of the humerus fits into the scapula is a part of the shoulder known as the ball and socket joint. The shoulder capsule surrounds this joint and separates it from the rest of the body. It is also full of joint fluid, which keeps the shoulder in the correct place.

The capsule is actually comprised of several ligaments, which are key to holding the shoulder in the correct place. When the shoulder is dislocated, these ligaments may be torn as a result.

The Shoulder Labrum

The shoulder joint is surrounded by a ring of cartilage that gives it more depth and stability—this is known as the labrum. Additionally, the bicep tendon attaches to the labrum.

When the labrum is injured, it typically causes shoulder joint instability and pain. The severity of the injury depends on where exactly it’s located, but one of the most common types of labrum injuries is what’s known as a SLAP tear.

Experiencing Shoulder Pain?

Then it might be time to schedule a consultation with a shoulder specialist in Raleigh. Reach out to our team today to learn more about setting up an appointment.


The material contained on this site is intended for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE– it is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a physician or a qualified healthcare provider directly with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.