Harvard Women's Health Watch

Shoulder pain? Here's what you can do to treat it and prevent it

A few simple measures can protect your most flexible joint and put it back in service after overuse or injury.

All you need to do is rotate your arm to realize what a marvel your shoulder is. It's the body's most flexible joint and one of the most essential. Whether you're reaching the top shelf, swinging a golf club, or washing your hair, "it's the one joint you can't stop using," says Karen Weber, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. "We do a lot of repetitive motions with our arms. When our shoulder muscles aren't strong, we can set ourselves up for injury," Weber says.

How the shoulder works

The shoulder consists of three bones—the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm bone). The rotator cuff—a group of four muscles plus tendons and ligaments—holds the ball of the humerus in the socket formed by the clavicle and scapula.

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