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Shoulder Pain Glossary

Acromioclavicular Joint

The acromioclavicular joint is a joint between the acromion (a part of the scapula) and the clavicle. Between this joint there are a number of ligaments such as the coracoclavicular, coracoacromial ligament and conoid ligament.

Acromioclavicular (AC) Dislocation

The clavicle (collar bone) is forced out of joint. Usually results from a fall on an outstretched hand.

Biceps Tendon rupture

The biceps (upper arm muscle with two heads) tendon pulls off the bone as a result of trauma.

Calcific tendonitis

This is where the rotator cuff tendon becomes calcified due to a prolonged period of abrasion.

Ergonomic Computer Mouse

An ergonomic computer mouse is a mouse for the computer that has been especially designed using ergonomic principles to keep the hand in a neutral position and so helping to keep the arm and hand in a position that minimises shoulder pain and elbow pain.  

Frozen shoulder – also known as adhesive capsulitis

Frozen shoulder is where the shoulder joint capsule hardens usually in response to trauma or surgery. This results in a widespread stiffening of the shoulder. Commonly over-diagnosed.

Joint Capsule

Another term you may hear related to shoulder anatomy is the joint capsule. A joint capsule is any membrane or sac in our bodies that surrounds a joint, like the shoulder. The shoulder joint capsule goes around the whole of the shoulder but very loosely.

The shoulder is a very complex part of the body with a great range of movement produced by many different bones, muscles and tendons all acting together. Unfortunately this flexibility also makes it more unstable and therefore susceptible to damage. If you do damage your shoulder you may find your doctor bringing up these terms of your shoulder anatomy and find it useful to understand what they mean.

Labral tear

The rim of the shoulder joint is torn during trauma. Most common in contact sports such as rugby.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging and is a common medical diagnostic procedure today. MRI is particularly useful for showing up the soft tissues in the body and so can be of great assistance when diagnosing your shoulder pain such as rotator cuff injuries.

MRI uses a magnetic field to show up neurological, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and oncological problems. It can also view the required area from a number of different planes.

Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is another important part of your shoulder and one you will often hear connected with shoulder pain. It consists of a number of tendons as well as some related muscles. The rotator cuff helps to stabilize the shoulder but can also be easily damaged such as a tear or shoulder impingement.

Rotator Cuff Tear

This is where one of the rotator cuff muscles tears. You may suffer a full thickness tear, or a partial thickness tear. The rotator cuff attach all around the shoulder and help to stabilise it.

Shoulder Arthritis (of the acromioclavicular joint)

Shoulder Arthritis is caused by wear and tear changes under the acromion of the shoulder leading to shoulder impingement syndrome. This includes bone spurs.

Shoulder Bursa

A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that lies between bones and tendons or muscles around joints such as the shoulder. These allow smooth movement but can become inflamed, in which case you will be told you have bursitis.

Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder Dislocation occurs when the arm bone (humerus) is forced out of the shoulder joint, usually by trauma.

Shoulder Impingement

What is shoulder impingement? Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff are pinched in the subacromial space (the space below the acromion part of the scapula).

Shoulder instability

Shoulder instability is a loose shoulder joint which usually results after dislocation.

Shoulder Muscles

Another important part of the shoulder anatomy is the shoulder muscles. These muscles connect to the three bones in the shoulder and are responsible for different functions.

Some of these muscles include the serratus anterior, subclavius, pectoralis minor, sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, trapezius and deltoid.

Shoulder X-Ray

The first reason for a shoulder x-ray is if you believe that there has been any injury to the bone such as a fracture. X-rays do not show up soft tissue such as muscle and tendons but if you have landed on your arm or shoulder then you may have fractured the bone.

Having these x-rays done can also help to prove that it is not from a fracture, so helping to diagnose by a process of elimination.

Other forms of radiography such as x-rays with contrast dyes or ultra-sound can also help to show up more information if it is not a bone-related disorder.

Supraspinatus tendonitis

This is tendonitis of the supraspinatus muscle, one of the rotator cuff muscles. Most often caused by abrasion underneath the ACJ.


Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD). We can commonly define Whiplash as a medical condition that occurs, when due to a sudden jerk, the head moves forward and then backward or vice versa, very quickly.

Because there is a sudden snapping of the head both ways, neck and shoulder injuries are widespread in whiplash patients. Whiplash injuries commonly occur in car accidents.

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