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Arm and Shoulder Anatomy - want to learn more about it?

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Arm and Shoulder Anatomy

Upper extremity - anterior view

The upper limb is essential for our daily functioning. It enables us to grip, write, lift and throw, among many other movements. The upper limb has been shaped by evolution into a highly mobile part of the human body. 
It consists of four major segments, which are further subdivided into regions for precise description: 
  • Shoulder
  • Arm
  • Forearm
  • Hand

In this page, we are going to study shoulder and arm anatomy. 

Glenohumeral Joint

The glenohumeral joint is one of the joints associated with the shoulder girdle that allow a full range of movement of the upper limb . It is simply the articulation between the laterally projecting glenoid fossa (depression), or glenoid cavity, of the scapula and the head of the humerus.
Learn everything about this important joint by reading the following article and watching the video.

Shoulder (Glenohumeral) Joint
Glenohumeral joint

Bones

The shoulder is the region where the upper limb is attached to the trunk. The bones of the shoulder are:

  • the clavicle
  • the scapula
  • the humerus

The humerus is the bone of the arm that articulates with the scapula proximally and with the radius and the ulna distally. Watch the following video tutorials to learn everything about the bones of the arm.

Scapula
Humerus and Scapula
Clavicle
Humerus

Muscles

The two most superficial muscles of the shoulder are the deltoid and the trapezius muscles. These muscles provide the shoulder with its characteristic contour. You can learn more about these muscles in the following articles: 

Deltoid Muscle
Trapezius Muscle

Another group of muscles that is quite important for this region is the rotator cuff muscles. This group consists of 4 muscles: the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, the teres minor, and the subscapularis. The rotator cuff anatomy is presented in the following table.

Key facts about the rotator cuff muscles
Supraspinatus muscle Origin: medial two-thirds of the supraspinatous fossa
Insertion: greater tubercle of the humerus
Innervation: suprascapular nerve (C5, C6)
Function: initiation of abduction of arm  to 15° at glenohumeral joint
Infraspinatus muscle Origin: medial two-thirds of the infraspinatous fossa
Insertion: greater tubercle of the humerus
Innervation: suprascapular nerve (C5, C6)
Function: external rotation of the arm at the glenohumeral joint
Teres minor muscle Origin: lateral scapular border
Insertion: greater tubercle of the humerus
Innervation: axillary nerve (C5, C6)
Function: external rotation of the arm at the glenohumeral joint
Subscapularis muscle Origin: medial two-third of the subscapular fossa
Insertion: lesser tubercle of the humerus
Innervation: upper and lower subscapular nerves
Function: internal rotation of the arm

Besides the rotator cuff, there are also other muscles that are important for the movements of the upper limb and are located in the region of the shoulder and arm: 

  • Teres major
  • Serratus anterior
  • Levator scapulae
  • Rhomboid major
  • Rhomboid minor
  • Pectoralis major
  • Pectoralis minor
  • Coracobrachialis
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Brachialis
  • Biceps brachii
  • Triceps brachii

Take a look at the bottom of the page for an arm muscles diagram and also read the following articles for more information about the muscles of the shoulder and arm.

Rotator Cuff
Upper Limb muscles and movements

Nerves

The nerves in this area originate from the brachial plexus. The plexus is made by the merging of the anterior branches of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th cervical nerves (C5-C8) with participation of the anterior branch of the first thoracic spinal nerve (T1). 

Recommended video: Brachial plexus
Structure of the brachial plexus, including the roots, trunks, cords and branches.

In the shoulder and arm, the brachial plexus gives rise to two nerves:

When the brachial plexus is injured, these nerves are affected and some interesting clinical syndromes can be observed. 

Clinical case: Brachial Plexus Injury

Arteries and Veins

The main artery in the shoulder is the axillary artery. This artery begins at the lateral border of the 1st rib, as the continuation of the subclavian artery, and ends at the inferior border of the teres major. It passes posterior to the pectoralis minor into the arm and becomes the brachial artery when it passes the inferior border of the teres major. The axillary artery gives rise to all the arterial branches that provide blood to the shoulder and arm, as you can see in the following video and article. 

Axillary artery
Axillary Artery

The venous drainage of the arm is a continuation of the venous system of the forearm. Specifically the main veins of this area are the deep brachial veins (deep veins that accompany the brachial artery), and the basilic and cephalic veins. All these veins drain finally to the subclavian veins. You can learn more about the veins of the shoulder and arm by reading the following articles. 

Cephalic vein
Basilic Vein
Veins of the Upper Limb

Video Tutorials

Humerus and Scapula
Shoulder girdle
Muscles of Arm and Shoulder
Muscles of the shoulder
Rotator cuff muscles
Muscles of the Arm
Deltoid muscle
Triceps brachii muscle
Biceps brachii muscle
Coracobrachialis muscle
Subscapularis muscle
Brachialis muscle
Infraspinatus muscle
Teres major muscle
Teres minor muscle
Functions of the arm muscles
Functions of the shoulder muscles
Arteries of the upper limb
Axillary artery
Brachial plexus
Main nerves of the upper extremity
Median nerve
Radial nerve
Musculocutaneous nerve

Quizzes

Humerus and scapula
Shoulder (glenohumeral) joint
Muscles of the arm and the shoulder
Main arteries of the upper extremity
Main nerves of the upper extremity
Neurovasculature of the arm and the shoulder
Brachial plexus

Arm and Shoulder Anatomy - want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 1,006,141 successful anatomy students.

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Show references

Article, Review, Layout:

  • Dimitrios Mytilinaios
  • Nicola McLaren
  • Adrian Rad

Illustrators:

  • Upper extremity - anterior view - Yousun Koh
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

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