THE UPPER EXTREMITY IN CONTEXT & THE SHOULDER
Overview of the Upper Extremity: the primary function of the upper
extremity is to position the hand for interaction with the environment.
The shoulder, similar to the hip, functions to position the hand, provides
stability for hand use, lifts, pushes, elevates the body, assists with
forced inspiration and expiration, and even weight bearing as in
crutch-walking (Smith, Weiss, & Lehmkuhl, 1996, p. 223).
The elbow serves to shorten and lengthen the upper extremity. It is
important in elevating the body, as in push-ups or pull-ups (Smith, Weiss,
& Lehmkuhl, 1996, p.158).
The hand performs a significant range of functions. It is an organ for
touch, an extension to the brain to provide information to the visual
system about the environment, and it is an important organ for expression
and nonverbal communication. The hand can grasp with forces exceeding 100
pounds as well as hold and manipulate a delicate thread (Smith, Weiss, &
Lehmkuhl, 1996, p.180).
Shoulder Complex: The term "complex" is quite appropriate for the shoulder,
which is comprised of three joints and one primary articulation, all moved
by twenty muscles, permitting the greatest mobility of any joint in the
human body. The three joints and primary articulation of the shoulder are:
The Sternoclavicular Joint: provides the only attachment for the upper
extremity to the Axial skeleton.
The Acromioclavicular Joint
Functional Anatomy and Brief Biomechanical Considerations: the great degree
of shoulder mobility exists at the expense of structural stability.
The Glenohumeral Joint
The Scapulothoracic Articulation: a functional, stable,
scapulothoracic articulation is critical for optimal glenohumeral
Glenohumeral Stability: The surface of the glenoid fossa is only one third
to one fourth that of the humeral head, which means that only part of the
humeral head is in contact with the glenoid at any given time (Culham &
Peat, 1993). Because of this, there is little inherent bony stability in
the glenohumeral joint. Stability of the joint is enhanced by a number of
anatomic features, including:
The joint capsule and glenohumeral movement: because the plane of the
scapula is oriented midway between the frontal and sagittal planes, it
places a twist on the joint capsule. Tension in the joint capsule increases
with abduction, pulling the humerus into external rotation. This rotation
allows for greater range of motion into abduction by allowing the greater
tubercle to clear the coracoacromial arch. Abnormal tightness of the joint
capsule, can greatly impair the normal biomechanical motion of the shoulder
(Hertling & Kessler, 1996, p. 173).
- The glenoid labrum: a ring of fibrocartilaginous tissue attached
around the margin of the glenoid fossa, which deepens the glenoid by
50 % (Culham & Peat, 1993). A tear of this labrum can predispose the
glenohumeral joint to subluxation/dislocation (a labrum torn during a
dislocation may predispose the joint to recurrent
- The glenoid fossa is tilted posteriorly with respect to the plane of
the scapula, and tilted upward 5o, offering greater support to the
humeral head (Culham & Peat, 1993).
- The superior joint capsule and the coracohumeral ligament are taut
when the arm is hanging freely at the side. This force pulls the head
of the humerus in against the upward-facing glenoid cavity. Because of
this passive force, little or no muscle contraction by the deltoid or
the rotator cuff muscles is necessary to prevent inferior subluxation
of the humerus, even when hand is holding a weight (Hertling &
Kessler, 1996, p. 170).
- The scapula faces 30o anterior to the chest wall and is tilted upward
3o (Zachazewski, Magee, & Quillen, 1996).
- The ligaments and muscles (primarily the rotator cuff) that cross the
shoulder lend the greatest support to the glenohumeral joint. Without
these structures, the articulation between the glenoid and the humerus
would not be maintained.
Scapulothoracic-glenohumeral rhythm: ratio of glenohumeral movement to
scapulothoracic movement in abduction is 2:1 (Smith, Weiss, & Lehmkuhl,
The purpose of scapulohumeral rhythm is to maintain the glenoid fossa in a
optimal position to receive the head of the humerus, thus increasing range.
The motion of the scapula permits muscles acting on the humerus to maintain
a good length-tension relationship.
The Coracoacromial Arch: formed by the coracoid and acromion processes of
the scapula and the coracoacromial ligament that unites them. The
subacromial space, which exists between the coracoacromial arch and the
humeral head is occupied by the supraspinatus, the long head of the biceps
and the subacromial bursa. In normal subjects, this space measures 9 to 10
mm. A reduction in this space is associated with impingement of the
structures within the subacromial space (Culham & Peat, 1993, p. 348).
The rotator cuff: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and
Blood supply to the rotator cuff: the arterial and venous supply to the
insertion of the rotator cuff muscles is poor, and is considered a
"watershed" area, in which the cuff receives its blood supply indirectly
from arteries above and below. The majority of rotator cuff tears occur at
this "watershed" area, and healing time can obviously be impacted by this
anatomical factor. This tenuous blood supply affects the supraspinatus
muscle more greatly than the other muscles of the cuff.
The long head of the biceps: originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of
the scapula and the superior aspect of the glenoid labrum, arches over the
head of the humerus, and descends into the bicipital groove. With shoulder
movements, primarily flexion, the biceps tendon does not slide in the
bicipital groove, but the groove/humerus moves on the fixed tendon (Hammer,
1991, p. 45). Overload of the transverse humeral ligament may occur in
abduction and external rotation, resulting in a subluxing tendon
(Richardson & Iglarsh, 1994, p.196).
The thoracic outlet and the neurovascular bundle: the thoracic outlet is
the region at the base of the neck through which pass the neurovascular
bundle comprised of the brachial plexus and the subclavian vessels, which
are in route to the upper extremity from the mediastinum. The brachial
plexus and/or subclavian vessels can become entrapped by various anatomic
structures, leading to a number of pathologies collectively known as
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (Kreig, 1993).
Symptoms of neurovascular compression due to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome are
often vague and nonspecific, ranging from exertional fatigue to frank
paresthesia and vascular insufficiency (Baker & Liu, 1993).
The Joint Capsule of the Shoulder: The entire glenohumeral joint is
surrounded by a large, loose capsule, which in the resting position is taut
superiorly and slack inferiorly. There is a slight negative pressure within
the joint capsule, which may contribute somewhat to increasing glenohumeral
joint stability. The resting position of the shoulder is 55 degrees
abduction, 30 degrees horizontal adduction. Its closed packed position is
full abduction and lateral rotation. The capsular pattern of the shoulder
is external rotation, abduction, internal rotation (Magee, 1997, p. 175).
The tendons of the rotator cuff muscles blend with and reinforce the joint
capsule (Culham & Peat, 1993).
Ligaments of the Shoulder Complex are extracapsular or intracapsular, and
include the following:
- Coracoacromial ligament: forms the "roof of the shoulder".
- The Sternoclavicular ligaments provide the only ligamentous attachment of
the entire shoulder complex to the body.
- The Acromioclavicular ligaments maintain the articulation of the
distal-lateral clavicle to the acromion of the scapula, by preventing
posterior dislocation of the clavicle.
- The Coracoclavicular ligament(s) provide(s) for added joint stability and
assists the acromioclavicular ligaments in firmly uniting the clavicle with
the scapula. As muscles elevate the upper extremity, this ligament produces
the component motion of longitudinal rotation of the clavicle.
- The transverse humeral ligament: is a special band of transverse fibers
of the fibrous capsule that is attached to the greater and lesser tubercles
of the humerus and forms a bridge over the superior end of the
intertubercular sulcus. It holds the tendon of the long head of the biceps
in this groove as it emerges from the capsule of the shoulder joint (Moore,
The glenohumeral ligaments: are thickenings of the joint capsule and
provide a great deal of support to the weak joint capsule. These three
ligaments form a "Z" to reinforce the capsule anteriorly.
Muscles: provide the dynamic stability to the joint.
- Superior glenohumeral ligament: runs from the superior glenoid tubercle,
the upper part of the glenoid labrum, and the base of the coracoid process
to the humerus between the upper part of the lesser tuberosity and the
anatomical neck. Its primary function is prevention of inferior
displacement of the humeral head in the adducted, dependent arm.
- Middle glenohumeral ligament: passes from the anterior margin of the
glenoid fossa to the anterior aspect of the anatomical neck and lesser
tuberosity of the humerus. It lies under the subscapularis tendon and is
intimately attached to it. The subscapularis tendon and the middle
glenohumeral ligament are important anterior stabilizers of the
glenohumeral joint and function to limit lateral rotation of the humerus
between 0 and 90 degrees of elevation.
- Inferior glenohumeral ligament: attaches to the anterior, inferior, and
posterior margins of the glenoid labrum medially and to the anatomical and
surgical neck of the humerus laterally. This ligament has two discrete
bands, an anterior band and a posterior band. The anterior band forms a
sling that acts as the primary restraint for anterior and inferior
dislocation or subluxation with elevation of the shoulder. The posterior
band stabilizes against posterior and inferior subluxation of the humeral
The scapular muscles: the ultimate function of these muscles is
to orient the glenoid fossa for optimal contact with the
maneuvering arm and to provide a stable base for the controlled
rolling and gliding of the humeral head.
The glenohumeral muscles: the primary functions of the muscles of
the glenohumeral joint are:
Soft Tissue Disorders of the Shoulder
- Move the humerus
- Provide dynamic stability by:
causing downward sliding of the humerus on
maintaining apposition of the joint surfaces
as they move.
Shoulder instability: usually the result of injury to ligaments, muscles,
and/or the glenoid labrum. Instability is defined by the direction of
excessive humeral head movement. Factors that contribute to the degree of
instability include: the amount of movement of the humeral head, whether
the problem is chronic versus acute, whether the initial injury was
traumatic or atraumatic in nature, and whether the person can voluntarily
move the humeral head out of the glenoid. Shoulder instability can be due
to a number of factors, including dislocations, subluxations, sprains, and
Dislocations and Subluxations: Dislocation occurs when the articulating
surfaces of the bones that comprise a joint lose contact with each other,
usually due to an external force. Subluxation is a partial slip or slide of
one articulating surface on another, with some degree of contact between
the two articulating surfaces, which may or may not be painful.
Subluxation is commonly seen in the shoulders of people with hemiplegia,
where loss of motor control to the muscles allows the scapula to downwardly
rotate and tip anteriorly, positioning the glenoid fossa anteriorly and
inferiorly, allowing the humeral head to be displaced inferiorly by
gravity. Weakness/paresis of the rotator cuff in association with prolonged
traction due to gravity stretches the capsule and ligaments of the joint.
Treatment via Bobath sling, Functional Electrical Stimulation, and
facilitation of the muscular components have some degree of effect,
depending on the extent of the neurological insult.
Anterior Shoulder Dislocation: 98% of shoulder dislocations are
anterior-inferior in direction:
Incidence of recurrence of dislocation is directly proportional to the
magnitude of trauma required to produce the dislocation: the less trauma
required to produce the initial dislocation, the more likely the shoulder
is to remain unstable in activities with the arm in the overhead position.
- results from an excessive external rotation and abduction force
- usually involves a tear of the anterior band of the inferior
glenohumeral ligament, the anterior capsule, and the labrum;
- a tear of the rotator cuff and/or a Hill Sachs lesion may also be
- a major potential, but infrequent, complication of this injury is
compromise of the axillary artery or vein;
- other complications of this injury include damage of the axillary
nerve, or less commonly, the radial nerve, the thoracodorsal nerve, or
the subscapular nerve (Reid, 1992).
Posterior Shoulder Dislocation: dislocations posteriorly are rare.
Signs and symptoms of shoulder dislocation (anterior and posterior) include
loss of upper extremity function, positive apprehension test, positive
sulcus sign, loss of normal contour of the shoulder, and potential sensory
loss. Pain may or may not be present, depending on the chronicity of the
- results from posteriorly directed force with the upper extremity
adducted and internally rotated
- usually involves a tear of the posterior joint capsule, the posterior
band of the inferior glenohumeral ligament, and possibly the labrum;
- tears of the infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis may occur.
- complications include injury to the dorsal scapular nerve (Culham &
Treatment of dislocations:
Acute phase: immediate reduction by a qualified person; ice, NSAIDS,
immobilization for three to six weeks with ROM exercises at elbow, wrist,
and hand; isometrics of the shoulder muscles.
Subacute phase: begin AROM in isolated planes; avoid positions that
recreate position of dislocation;
Strengthening of muscles:
Pathologies associated with the Glenoid Labrum: usually the result of
shoulder dislocations, and are associated with shoulder instability.
Recurrent episodes of dislocation or subluxation may require surgical
- For anterior dislocations: anterior shoulder muscles and internal
- For posterior dislocations: posterior muscles and the rotator cuff ;
- Proprioception activities.
Bankart Lesion: a condition in which the anterior band of the inferior
glenohumeral ligament is avulsed along with a portion of the labrum from
the glenoid, resulting in anterior-inferior instability (Hammer, 1991,
Hill Sach's Lesion: a lesion also associated with anterior inferior
dislocation. A defect of the humeral head in which a portion of the
posterior humeral head is fractured or compressed during dislocation. The
depression caused by this defect "impales itself" on the glenoid and the
labrum causing a bony lock. External rotation of the humerus can cause
relocking of the shoulder, therefore therapists must be very careful when
having patients perform this motion.
"SLAP" Lesion: a labral injury involving the superior aspect of the glenoid
labrum, beginning posteriorly and extending anteriorly stopping at or above
the mid-glenoid notch, which is associated with some degree of tearing of
the tendon of the long head of the biceps.
Surgical intervention addresses the pathology precisely, reestablishing the
pre-injury anatomy as much as possible. The glenoid is reattached to the
bone via sutures, torn ligaments are sewn together and reattached. Some
procedures, such as the Bristow procedure reinforces the stability via
tendon transfers. With the Bristow procedure, an anterior buttress is
created by transferring the conjoined tendons of the short head of the
biceps and the coracobrachialis to the glenoid neck, so that during active
abduction the conjoint tendon pulls across the front of the joint,
dynamically stabilizing it (Reid, 1992, p. 973).
Acromioclavicular joint: most frequently sprained ligament of the shoulder.
Mechanism of injury usually involves a direct fall or blow to the AC joint,
a fall on the elbow or extended arm which drives the humerus superiorly.
Signs and symptoms: point tenderness over the AC joint, varying degrees of
deformity from slight rise of the acromion to a "complete separation" of
the shoulder. Pain with joint motion. The AC joint spring test and the
shoulder depression test are positive.
Sternoclavicular joint: mechanism of injury involves a direct blow to the
sternum, or an indirect force from a fall on the shoulder with the arm
extended, or a lateral compression force. If the force is applied with
slight retraction of the shoulder, the more common anterior SC sprain is
acquired, if the force is applied with slight shoulder protraction, the
result is a posterior sprain.
Signs and symptoms: localized pain over the SC joint, pain with motion of
the shoulder joint, varying degrees of deformity depending on grade of
sprain. The squeeze test is positive.
Treatment for Sprains of the Shoulder: the joint is routinely immobilized
for 2 to 4 weeks; inflammatory control during the acute phase; isometric
exercises progressing to AROM, strengthening , and functional activities.
Surgical interventions for severe grade II and grade III sprains involve
wiring of the joint, or occasionally the use of screws.
Impingement: occurs with any encroachment of the acromion and/or the
coracoacromial ligament on the supraspinatus, the subacromial bursa, and/or
the long head of the biceps within the subacromial space. Impingement
occurs as a result of deficient shoulder biomechanics; with a number of
The key points to treating impingement is recognition, determining the
cause, and early intervention. Analysis of biomechanics with correction of
joint capsule tightness, muscle imbalances, activity modification including
restriction of motion through the painful range, anti-inflammatory
modalities, and use of NSAIDS are important first lines of treatment. More
intense interventions include injection of corticosteroids, decompressive
surgery, or repair of the cuff via suturing of the torn ends.
- weakness of the rotator cuff muscles with a resultant "over-pull" of
the deltoid , compressing the humeral head into the acromion;
- glenohumeral instability;
- an anatomically prominent acromion process;
- tearing of the rotator cuff, especially the supraspinatus, due to
overuse or over-stressing of the muscle(s)
- inflammation of any of the subacromial structures due to overuse or
trauma, commonly the subacromial bursa, which becomes thickened;
- stiffness of the posterior joint capsule, changing the center of
rotation at the humerus.
Impingement is classified on a continuum of three grades:
Grade I: is characterized by reversible inflammation and edema,
frequently of the long head of the biceps or supraspinatus
tendon. Pain is in a specific arc of movement that becomes larger
as the inflammation progresses. Grade I impingement is most
common in people between the ages of 16 and 20, and is usually
due to prolonged repetitive overhead activity (Reid, 1992,
Grade II: involves inflammation superimposed on slight
tearing/fraying of the cuff, and occasionally a subacromial
bursitis. X-rays may reveal degenerative changes, such as
osteophyte formation. Grade II impingement usually involves
people between 30 and 45 years of age, with a history of overuse,
a sudden increase in activity, a fall or dislocation/subluxation,
and early degenerative changes (Reid, 1992, p. 936).
Grade III: involves a more severe fraying or a complete tear of
the tendon of the supraspinatus or, less frequently, the long
head of the biceps, with bone spurs being present. Grade three
impingement is seen more often in people over the age of 45, and
may be associated with decreased blood supply to the cuff muscles
due to aging. Mechanism of injury includes occupational overuse,
a fall, a sudden increase in activity, and atrophic and
degenerative changes (Reid, 1992, p. 938).
The therapist must be familiar with the grade of impingement, the
interventions of the physician/surgeon, and base treatment strategies on
- Improving biomechanics: therapists must ensure that there is adequate
laxity in the inferior joint capsule to allow the humeral head to glide
caudally during elevation. Additionally, the patient must gain a balance of
deltoid and rotator cuff strength, along with the scapular stabilizers.
Exercises should avoid the impingement zone. Exercises effective at
countering impingement are: scaption with internal rotation (shoulder is
halfway between flexion and abduction, strengthening the supraspinatus),
rowing exercises (focusing on rhomboids, middle, and lower trapezii),
"push-ups with a plus," and sitting press-ups (both strengthening serratus
anterior and lower scapular stabilizers) (Prentice, 1994, p. 310).
Tendinitis and Muscle Strains: are frequently seen with the varying grades
of impingement. Tendinitis and strains at the shoulder most often have an
etiology of repetitive intrinsic loading of the muscle/overuse, which may
be associated with over-fatigue or weakening of specific muscles, including
the rotator cuff, scapulothoracic muscles, etc. (Hammer, 1991, p. 44).
Supraspinatus tendinitis/strain: The most common sites of involvement are
just before the insertion on the greater tuberosity and at the
musculotendinous junction. The supraspinatus can be tested for
tendinitis/strain by using the "empty can sign," also known as the test for
the supraspinatus. Grade III strains can be confirmed by employing the drop
arm test. Almost all tears of the rotator cuff, except those due to direct
trauma, occur at or near the insertion of the muscle, and are due to
overuse: "the cuff wears before it tears" (Reid, 1991, p. 47).
Bicipital tendinitis/strain: often associated with tendinitis of the
rotator cuff and at times is cuff tendinitis can be misdiagnosed as biceps
tendinitis. True tenosynovitis of the long head of the biceps is invariably
found under and just distal to the transverse humeral ligament. It is
usually the result of overuse, a direct blow, laxity of the transverse
humeral ligament resulting in subluxation of the tendon. Bicipital
tendinitis is diagnosed using Speed's test, and pathology of the transverse
humeral ligament is diagnosed using Yergason's test.
Treatment of the muscle and tendon strains: consists of ice and various
modalities; specific stretching and friction massage of the involved
muscle, followed by strengthening. Because the majority of tendinitis is
caused by eccentric overload, rehabilitation should be directed toward
improving eccentric stress, via progressive eccentric strengthening. The
therapist should assess shoulder biomechanics, with the strengthening
regime including any weak muscles that contribute to abnormal mechanics.
Finally, the person's life roles must be addressed, and exercises that will
have transfer to the person's activities should be implemented.
Bursitis: at the shoulder, almost always involves the subacromial bursa.
Almost all cases of subacromial bursitis are preceded by
tendinitis/tenosynovitis of the rotator cuff. Subacromial bursitis occurs
as the result of a weak rotator cuff being unable to effectively oppose
upward translation of the deltoid, thus allowing the humerus to translate
up into the acromion, effectively "squeezing" the bursa and causing
Because tendinitis/strain usually precedes bursitis, they may be present
simultaneously and sometimes difficult to differentiate on physical exam.
With tendinitis, pain is elicited with resisted tests, but usually not with
passive tests. Bursitis may cause pain with resisted tests and is also
present with passive tests, especially at the end of range of motion. If
bursitis is present, the therapist may have positive active, passive, and
Treatment of subacromial bursitis is the same as for muscle strains and
Adhesive Capsulitis: fibrosis of the joint capsule due to inflammation and
limited movement, usually as the result of a preceding pathology, such as
muscle strain, tendinitis, bursitis, etc, which may have been preceded by
another problem, usually impingement. Adhesive capsulitis is rare in people
under the age of 40 and is more common in sedentary individuals.
Adhesive capsulitis is diagnosed via active and passive range of motion
testing, with a capsular end-feel being noted at end range, and the
presence of a capsular pattern, usually external rotation, abduction, and
internal rotation. Treatment strategies include modalities to stretch the
capsule, joint mobilization, and functional exercises. The therapist should
also work to identify the underlying pathology that precipitated the
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: is a term used to describe a variety of
neurovascular compression syndromes associated with the neurovascular
bundle of the brachial plexus (medial trunk, C8-T1) and the subclavian
artery and vein. These syndromes become symptomatic due to poor posture and
Signs and symptoms include burning and numbness in the shoulder and ulnar
side of the arm, forearm, and hand; decreased sensation, atrophy, and/or
weakness of the muscles supplied by the involved nerves; and a diminished
radial pulse when certain structures are stressed. The diminished radial
pulse, accompanied by numbness and burning of the upper extremity, are used
to implicate the structures causing the compression by employing special
tests. The following structures associated with the thoracic outlet can
cause compression of the neurovascular bundle:
Anterior scalene syndrome: in which the bundle is compressed between the
anterior scalene and the middle scalene muscles. Confirmed by the Thoracic
Outlet Test for Tight Anterior Scalene / Adson Maneuver: while palpating
the radial pulse, the therapist abducts the arm to 45 degrees and extends
the shoulder to 45 degrees. The patient is then asked to fully turn his/her
head toward the side being tested, extend the cervical spine, and take a
deep breath and hold it for 15 to 30 seconds.
Costoclavicular syndrome: the bundle is compressed between the first rib
and clavicle. Confirmed by the Thoracic Outlet Test for Costoclavicular
Syndrome: while palpating the radial pulse on the side being tested, the
therapist abducts the arm to 45 degrees and extends the shoulder to 45
degrees, while applying a downward distraction to the upper extremity as
the patient actively retracts and depresses the scapula. The patient holds
his/her head in neutral (looks straight ahead) then takes a deep breath and
holds it for 15 to 30 seconds.
Pectoralis minor syndrome: the bundle is compressed by a tight pectoralis
minor muscle. Confirmed by the Thoracic Outlet Test for Pectoralis Minor
Syndrome / Hyperabduction Test: the therapist continuously palpates the
radial pulse on the side being tested, then the therapist hyperabducts the
upper extremity, placing the patient's hand behind their head, applying
over-pressure and holding for 30 - 45 seconds.
Cervical rib syndrome: the presence of a cervical rib compresses the
neurovascular bundle. Implicated by a positive Thoracic Outlet Test for a
Cervical Rib / Halstead Maneuver: the therapist continuously palpates the
radial pulse on the side being tested, then the therapist abducts the arm
to 45 degrees, extends the shoulder to 45 degrees, and externally rotates
the upper extremity while applying a downward distraction to the arm. The
patient is then asked to fully turn his/her head away from the side being
tested and extend the cervical spine. Correction of this syndrome almost
always requires surgical intervention.
Treatment for Thoracic Outlet syndrome: first and foremost, the therapist
must know which anatomic structure is causing compression. From here, it is
a matter of correcting the biomechanics/posture of the individual by
stretching tight structures and strengthening weak structures. Modification
of life roles may be indicated as well.
Fractures of the Shoulder Complex
Stress Fractures in the upper extremity are uncommon. Traumatic fractures
on the structures of the shoulder are managed as follows:
Clavicular fractures: are usually due to direct blows sustained from a fall
on the point of the shoulder. Most common site is the junction of the
middle and outer third of the clavicle. Treatment depends on the amount of
displacement of the fracture, with undisplaced/minimally displaced
fractures being treated with a sling. Significant displacement/overlapping
fragments may require figure of eight bandage to retract the shoulder
girdle, minimize the overlap, and allow more anatomic healing. There are
few indications for O.R.I.F. of the clavicle (Reid, 1992, p. 986).
Scapular fractures: most fractures are generated by direct blows, with the
exception of the glenoid rim fractures, which are usually in association
with dislocations. Fractures of the scapula are divided into the following
Fractures of the body: rarely require treatment except for support and
immobilization to relieve pain. Displacement of the fracture is uncommon,
due to the large number of muscular attachments holding the various regions
Fractures of the neck: treated nonoperatively. If there is significant
displacement, or the fracture extends onto the glenoid margin and involves
the joint, consideration must be given to glenohumeral stability.
Fractures of the acromion: caused by direct blows to the acromion. For
nondisplaced fractures, a sling is worn with early motion performed; for
comminuted fractures, surgery to excise or fix the fractured fragment is
Fractures of the coracoid process: related to avulsions by the tendon of
the coracobrachialis or by the pectoralis minor. These fractures heal
uneventfully on their own.
Humeral fractures: One of the major concerns with fractures of the humerus
is the relation of the axillary nerve proximally and the radial nerve in
the middle third as it passes through the spiral groove. The majority of
humeral fractures are fixated internally, especially with fractures of the
humeral head that are associated with dislocation, and with fractures of
the shaft of the humerus. Plates, screws, k-wires, etc. are commonly
Therapy for fractures: the large range of motion that is so necessary at
the glenohumeral joint is jeopardized after injury, frequently by the
formation of adhesions/capsular fibrosis, therefore it is important to
institute motion prior to the maturation of these adhesions as soon as
possible. In determining a rehabilitation program for a patient with a
fracture that has been fixated, therapists should consider the type of
fracture, its severity, the type of fixation used, and the normal
biomechanics of the joint. A review of the surgeon's notes and a discussion
with the orthopedic surgeon will provide valuable information regarding
care and progression of the patient.
Evaluation of the Shoulder
The evaluation should be reflective of the general orthopedic
evaluation, including a thorough chart review, pertinent history,
and physical examination, proceeding from a general approach to a
specific approach. Although a person's diagnosis may be specific
to the shoulder, it is important that the therapist not be so
focused on the glenohumeral joint that other areas of involvement
may be missed.
Differential Tests of the Shoulder Include:
Since the shoulder is responsible for positioning the hand for
function, the therapist must assess the impact of the shoulder
problem on the person's life roles.
Once the general evaluation has been performed, then tests
specific to the shoulder can be administered.
- Test for the Acromioclavicular Joint / AC Joint Spring Test
- Alternate Test for the AC Joint / Shoulder Depression Test
- Test for the Sternoclavicular Joint / SC Squeeze Test
- Apprehension Tests for Shoulder Dislocation
- Supraspinatus Test / Drop Arm Tes
- Alternate Supraspinatus Test / Empty-can Sign
- Subacromial Impingement Sign
- Test of the Long Biceps Tendon / Yergason's Test
- Alternate Test of the Long Biceps Tendon / Speed's Test
- Test for Serratus Anterior Weakness / Wall Push-up
- Thoracic Outlet Test for Tight Anterior Scalene / Adson Maneuver
- Thoracic Outlet Test for Costoclavicular Syndrome
- Thoracic Outlet Test for Pectoralis Minor Syndrome /
- Thoracic Outlet Test for a Cervical Rib / Halstead Maneuver
- Upper Limb Tension Tests
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