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StatPearls . Treacertain Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.


Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Glenohumeral Joint

Lou-Ren Chang; Prashanth Anand; Matthew Varacallo.

Author Information


The glenohumeral joint is structurally a ball-and-socket joint and also functionally is taken into consideration a diarthrodial, multiaxial, joint.<1> The glenohumeral articulation requires the humeral head with the glenoid cavity of the scapula, and also it represents the significant articulation of the shoulder girdle.<2> The latter additionally consists of minor articulations of the sternoclavicular (SC), acromioclavicular (AC), and scapulothoracic joints.<3><1><4> The glenohumeral joint ranks as the most mobile joint of the huguy body.<2><5> The static and also dynamic stabilizing structures allow for extreme levels of motion in multiple planes of the body that predisposes the joint to instability occasions.

Structure and also Function

The glenohumeral joint is a ball and also socket joint that contains a complicated, dynamic, articulation in between the glenoid of the scapula and the proximal humerus. Specifically, it is the head of the humerus that contacts the glenoid cavity (or fossa) of the scapula. The articulating surdeals with of both have a lining of articular cartilage. The glenoid cavity is a shallow osseous element that is structurally deepened by a fibrocartilagenous rim, the glenoid labrum,  that spans the osseous periphery of the vault. The labrum is constant through the tendon of the biceps brachii at its exceptional element.<1>

Due to the loose joint capsule, and also the family member size of the humeral head compared to the shenable glenoid fossa (4:1 proportion in surchallenge area), it is one of the the majority of mobile joints in the huguy body. This raised mobility contributes to it being the many frequently dislocated joint.<5>

The glenohumeral joint is enclosed by a joint capsule that encapsulates the frameworks of the joint in a fibrous sheath. Structurally the joint capsule wraps approximately the anatomic neck of the humerus to the rim of the glenoid fossa.  While the joint capsule itself is a contiguous supportive framework bordering the articulating elements, the capsulolabral complexes incorporate crucial characteristic thickened bands that constitute the glenohumeral ligaments. First described in 1829, the glenohumeral ligaments execute not act as typical ligaments that lug a pure tensile force alengthy their length, yet quite, the glenohumeral ligaments come to be taut at varying positions of abduction and humeral rotation.<6><7> A synovial membrane develops the lining of the inner surface of the joint capsule. This membrane produces synovial fluid to alleviate friction between the articular surencounters.<8>

In addition to the synovial fluid reducing friction within the joint, tbelow are multiple synovial bursae present too. These bursae functionally act as a cushion in between joint frameworks, such as tendons. The most clinically considerable are the subacromial and also subscapular bursae. Tright here are countless, including:

Subacromial/subdeltoid bursa - This structure lies in between the deltoid muscle and also joint capsule in the superolateral aspect of the joint. It is superficial to the supraspinatus tendon. This bursa reduces friction underneath the deltoid muscle, allowing an increased range of movement. This bursa, excluding anatomic variants, does not typically interact with the shoulder joint itself.
Subcoracoid bursa -  This bursa is between the coracoid procedure and also the subscapularis.
Subscapular bursa - is situated between the tendon of the subscapularis muscle and also the capsule. It features to reduces frictional damages to the subscapularis muscle throughout motion of the glenohumeral joint, specifically during interior rotation.  

Static stabilizing structures encompass the osseous articular anatomy and also joint congruity, the glenoid labrum, the glenohumeral ligaments, joint capsule, and negative intraarticular press <9>:

Glenohumeral ligaments- Composed of a exceptional, middle, and inferior ligament, these 3 ligaments combine to form the glenohumeral joint capsule connecting the glenoid fossa to the humerus. Due to their location, they safeguard the shoulder and also proccasion it from dislocating anteriorly — this group of ligaments functions as the major stabilizers of the joint.
Coracoclavicular ligament – This ligament is created of the conoid and also trapezoid ligaments and also spans from the coracoid procedure to the clavicle. It functions to maintain the position of the clavicle in conjunction through the acromioclavicular ligament. Strong pressures deserve to rupture these ligaments during acromioclavicular joint injuries.
Coracohumeral ligament – This ligament supports the superior aspect of the joint capsule. It is a dense fibrous framework connecting the base of the coracoid process to the greater and also lesser tuberosities. At its origin, the ligament is thin and broad, measuring about 2 cm in diameter at the base of the coracoid. Laterally, the CHL separates into two unique bands that envelope the Long Head Biceps tendon at the proximal degree of the bicipital groove.

Dynamic stabilizing structures incorporate the Long head biceps tendon, rotator cuff muscles, the rotator interval, and the periscapular muscles.

Soft tworry sheave mechanism and also Long head of the biceps tendon (LHBT) <10><11>

The subscapularis has superficial and deep fibers that envelope the bicipital groove, producing the “roof” and also “floor,” respectively. These fibers also coalesce through those from the supraspinatus and also remarkable glenohumeral ligament/coracohumeral ligament complex.  These frameworks attach intimately at the lesser tuberosity to develop the proximal and also medial facet of the pulley mechanism, via soft tconcern extensions serving to further envelope the LHBT in the bicipital groove. Once the LHBT exits the groove, it takes a 30- to 40-degree rotate as it heads toward the supraglenoid tubercle and glenoid labrum. Thus, the proximal soft tworry facets of the groove are particularly instrumental for the all at once stability of the entire biceps facility.

The glenohumeral joint possesses the capability of allowing an extreme variety of activity in multiple planes.<12>

Flexion – Defined as bringing the top limb anterior in the sagittal plane. The usual selection of activity is 180 levels. The main flexors of the shoulder are the anterior deltoid, coracobrachialis, and also pectoralis major. Biceps brachii likewise weakly assists in this activity.
Extension—Defined as bringing the top limb posterior in a sagittal airplane. The normal range of motion is 45 to 60 degrees. The primary extensors of the shoulder are the posterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi, and also teres significant.
Internal rotation—Defined as rotation toward the midline along a vertical axis. The normal array of motion is 70 to 90 levels. The internal rotation muscles are the subscapularis, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, teres significant, and the anterior facet of the deltoid.
External rotation - Defined as rotation away from the midline along a vertical axis. The normal variety of motion is 90 levels. Primarily infraspinatus and teres minor are responsible for the movement.
Adduction – Defined as bringing the top limb towards the midline in the coronal airplane. Pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and also teres major are the muscles mainly responsible for shoulder adduction.

I. The supraspinatus is responsible for the initially 0 to 15 degrees of abduction<13>

II. The middle fibers of the deltoid are responsible for about 15 to 90 levels of abduction following<14>

III. Scapular rotation due to the actions of the trapezius and also serratus anterior permit for abduction past 90 degrees 


The breakthrough of the skeletal shoulder is composed of both forms of ossification processes. The clavicle undergoes intramembranous ossification, which is the direct laying dvery own of bone into the mesenchyme. The remainder of the bony frameworks of the shoulder develop by endochondral ossification.<15>  The mesoderm germ layer develops practically all of the connective tconcerns of the musculoskeletal system, including the glenohumeral joint. Musculoskeletal and also limb abnormalities, as a result of both environmental and also hereditary contributions, are among the largest teams of congenital abnormalities.

Blood Supply and Lymphatics

The glenohumeral joint receives vascular supply through the posterior and anterior circumflex humeral arteries, both of which are branches of the axillary artery. The preleading arterial blood supply to the humeral head is through the posterior humeral circumflex artery.<4><16> The arcuate artery is the extension/extension of the ascending branch of the anterior humeral circumflex. It enters the bicipital groove and gives many of the humeral head. A branch of the thyrocervical trunk, the subscapular arteries, and its branches, also contribute to the blood supply of the shoulder.<17>

The majority of the lymph nodes in the upper extremity are located within the axilla. These can be split based on area into five primary groups: pectoral, subscapular, humeral, central, and apical. Efferent vessels coming from the apical axillary nodes take a trip via the cervico-axillary canal and then converge to create the subclavian lymphatic trunk. This trunk will either proceed to enter the ideal venous angle or drainpipe directly right into the thoracic duct on the best and also left, respectively. Removal and analysis of axillary lymph nodes is frequently a vital tool in the staging of breastern cancers. The interruption of lymphatic drainage from the upper limb have the right to, but, cause lymphoedema, a problem where collected lymph in the subcutaneous tproblem leads to painful swelling of the upper limb.<18>


Innervation of the glenohumeral joint is a duty of the suprascapular, lateral pectoral, and also axillary nerves. All of the nerves giving the glenohumeral joint originate from the brachial plexus, which is a netjob-related of nerves formed by the ventral rami of the lower four cervical nerves and also the first thoracic nerve (C5, C6, C7, C8, and T1). The anatomy of the axillary nerve is critical as it is cshed to the glenohumeral joint. The axillary nerve arises from the posterior cord of the brachial plexus, courses along the subscapularis to its inferior edge, and also then passes very closely along the inferior glenohumeral joint capsule. It then courses posterior to the humerus, wraps roughly the surgical neck of the humerus through the posterior circumflex artery, running in the deep deltoid fascia.


The 4 muscles that constitute the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor.  The main biomechanical duty of the rotator cuff is stabilizing the glenohumeral joint by compushing the humeral head versus the glenoid. The rotator cuff muscles for this reason act as dynamic stabilizers of the glenohumeral joint.<19><20> In addition to the rotator cuff, the LHBT has a controversial contribution and overall role in glenohumeral joint stcapability. The current consensus agreement is that the stabilizing function of the LHBT in regards to the glenohumeral joint becomes more important and/or pertinent in the establishing of rotator cuff dysattribute.<11><10><21>

The supraspinatus mainly abducts the shoulder and also is responsible for the initial 15 levels of abduction. The infraspinatus and also teres minor aid in external rotation of the shoulder. The subscapularis muscle aids in internal rotation of the shoulder. The supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles are innervated by the suprascapular nerve. The teres minor is innervated by the axillary nerve and subscapularis by the subscapular nerve.

Clinical Significance

Shoulder dislocations

The glenohumeral joint is by far the a lot of frequently dislocated joint of the body, bookkeeping for up to 45% of dislocations. Anterior disarea accounts for 96% of situations and is regularly the result of a pressure directed to the shoulder joint while the arm is in abduction and outside rotation. Posterior dislocation is the second most common direction of displace, bookkeeping for 2% to 4% of instances. Posterior displaces are commonly as a result of instraight mechanisms such as electric shock or convulsions, bring about contraction of the fairly stronger internal rotators of the shoulder (latissimus dorsi, pectoralis significant, and also subscapularis muscles).

Glenohumeral joint disarea has actually an incidence of roughly 17 per 100,000 a year, through a top incidence among males in the 21 to 30 year age range and also females in the 61 to 80 year age array. Treatment commonly involves analgesics and also closed reduction, via some patients requiring succeeding surgical correction, particularly those via concurrent soft tissue injuries resulting in reexisting shoulder dislocations.<22> The axillary nerve courses within close proximity of the glenohumeral joint and wrap approximately the neck of the humerus, and also deserve to incur damages throughout displace or succeeding attempts at reduction of the dissituated joint. Injury to the axillary nerves causes a loss of sensation over the lateral shoulder and paralysis of the deltoid. Hill-Sachs lesions (impactivity fracture of the posterolateral humeral head against anteroinferior glenoid) and also Bankart lesions (detachment of anteroinferior labrum via or without an avulsion fracture) deserve to likewise take place following anterior displace. The recurrence price of glenohumeral joint displace is roughly 50% on average; however, tright here is a significant increase in the hazard of reincident with a younger age of initial disarea.<23>

Adhesive capsulitis

Adhesive capsulitis is a disorder of unclear reason in which the glenohumeral capsule becomes inflamed and stiff, significantly restricting motion and also have the right to reason chronic pain. The pain is generally constant, worse at night. Incidence is about 3% of the general population, through some dispute over this number as a result of pertains to of over-diagnosis of this disorder. It occurs more typically in womales aged 40 to 70 years of age.<24> Risk components for adhesive capsulitis include diabetes mellitus, connective tconcern diseases, thyroid condition, and also heart condition. It has actually associations as an adverse impact of certain extremely active antiretroviral therapies too.<25> Management is composed of physical and also occupational treatment, medication (analgesics/NSAIDs), intraarticular steroid injection, and also, in rare situations, surgical procedure. Manipulation under general anesthesia might additionally be an choice, which disrupts the sautomobile tproblem and adhesions within the joint. In time, many world reobtain around 90% of their shoulder selection of movement.

Rotator cuff injuries <19>

The tendons of the rotator cuff are often under heavy strain as they attribute in stabilizing the glenohumeral joint. Thus, the pathology of these rotator cuff tendons is relatively common. Rotator cuff problems are the the majority of widespread resource of shoulder pain for major care office visits.

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<26> A wide spectrum of pathology exists, including sub-acromial bursitis, rotator cuff tendinitis, shoulder impingement, and also rotator cuff tears. Patients with impingements/subacromial bursitis will certainly frequently comordinary of pain with overhead activity. Many patients will certainly have a resolution of their symptoms via properly designed and also percreated physical treatment programs. If patients do not enhance after a period of conservative monitoring, yet, testimonial by an orthopedic surgeon and/or sporting activities medication specialist is often vital. Rotator cuff tendon tears can be chronic as a result of tendon degeneration or shoulder impingement, or it have the right to be acute adhering to an injury. It might be partial thickness tear or full-thickness tear.