The Shoulder

By Emma McDonough and Matt Williams Physiotherapist

Did you know that the human shoulder is made up of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm bone). These bones articulate with the help of muscles, tendons and ligaments to form the glenohumeral joint and acromioclavicular joint which both contribute to the major anatomy of the shoulder.shoulder 1

We use the shoulder everyday- pegging out the washing, knitting, computer work, dressing, cleaning, cooking- it must be mobile enough for the movement of the arms and hands, but also have enough stability to allow for manual activities such as lifting, pushing and pulling. This very compromise between mobility and stability results in a large number of shoulder problems which we as physiotherapists see a lot of the time.

The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that originate from the shoulder blade and attach to the humerus, which provide stability and movement of the shoulder. They include:

  • Supraspinatus

  • Infraspinatus

  • Subscapularis

  • Teres Minor

 These muscles are commonly injured if there is too much forced placed through a weak and unstable shoulder whether that be due to a positional error, the aging process or a fall. Conditions that affect the rotator cuff include rotator cuff tendonitis, rotator cuff impingement syndrome or a rotator cuff tear. 

Shoulder Impingement is a condition where the shoulder is compromised due to weak and tight muscles around the shoulder blade which can cause the shoulder to pinch its soft tissues resulting in pain, swelling and loss of movement.

It is very important for the shoulder to develop good “posture” as society today spends a lot of time on the computer or sitting at a chair: the shoulder then adapts a rounded position which causes weakening of the shoulder blade muscles, tension through the rotator cuff and could contribute to impingement of the shoulder. Physiotherapists can give you suitable exercises to counteract this from occurring, as well as develop strength and stability for your shoulder joint. Has anyone ever told you that you have “winged shoulder blades”?

Exercising your shoulder is very important to ensure good shoulder posture and limit the chance of rotator cuff weakness. Here are some excellent shoulder strengthening exercises focusing on both rotator cuff and shoulder blade stabilising muscles.

 Lat pull downs with focus on posture with pull down. 10 times

shoulder 2




Wall Push ups, 20 times slow


Side lying Rotator cuff strengthening 1 kg x 20


Proper lifting technique and proper shoulder position be adapted during the day also to allow optimal use of your shoulder.

shoulder 3





Try changing your desk set up like the picture below to allow prime position of the shoulder and upper back.





shoulder 4

When was the last time you had your shoulder assessed?

If you have any concerns about your shoulder or would like more exercises please contact Rathmines Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre on 4975 1622 to make an appointment with a physiotherapist.