Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Adhesive Capsulitis Anatomy

To better understand adhesive capsulitis, it helps to understand the anatomy of the shoulder joint.

The shoulder joint allows motion between two major bones: the humerus and the scapula. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. A depression of the scapula, known as the glenoid, provides the socket for the head of the humerus. Ligaments and muscles act to stabilize the scapular-humeral joint during range of motion and weight bearing.

The clavicle, or collar bone, connects to the scapula at the acromion, which is a bony projection off the scapula. The acromioclavicular ligaments normally surround and secure this joint.

There are four main ligaments supporting the A-C joint. One or more can be sprained (torn) during this injury. The ligaments include:

  • Acromioclavicular ligament
  • Coracoclavicular ligament
  • Deltoid ligament
  • Trapezius ligament

Anatomy examples:
  • The shoulder joint viewed from the front
  • The shoulder joint viewed from the back
  • The shoulder joint viewed from the top showing rotator cuff
  • Muscles of the shoulder
  • The acromioclavicular joint

Last Updated: Nov 1, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Adhesive Capsulitis References
  1. Berghs BM, Sole-Molins X, Bunker TD. Arthroscopic release of adhesive capsulitis. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2004 Mar-Apr;13(2):180-5. [14997096]
  2. Buchbinder R, Hoving JL, Green S, Hall S, Forbes A, Nash P. Short course prednisolone for adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder or stiff painful shoulder): a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trial. Ann Rheum Dis. 2004 Nov;63(11):1460-9. [15479896]
  3. Callinan N, McPherson S, Cleaveland S, Voss DG, Rainville D, Tokar N. Effectiveness of hydroplasty and therapeutic exercise for treatment of frozen shoulder. J Hand Ther. 2003 Jul-Sep;16(3):219-24. [12943124]
  4. Cutts S, Clarke D. The patient with frozen shoulder. Practitioner. 2002 Nov;246(1640):730, 734-6, 738-9. [12452117]
  5. Fitzpatrick MJ, Powell SE, Tibone JE, Warren RF. The anatomy, pathology, and definitive treatment of rotator interval lesions: current concepts. Arthroscopy. 2003 Dec;19 Suppl 1:70-9. [14673422]
  6. Green S, Buchbinder R, Hetrick S. Physiotherapy interventions for shoulder pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(2):CD004258. [12804509]
  7. Tallia AF, Cardone DA. Diagnostic and therapeutic injection of the shoulder region. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Mar 15;67(6):1271-8. [12674455]
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