Neuromuscular adaptations in shoulder function and dysfunction

Handb Clin Neurol. 2018:158:385-400. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-63954-7.00037-9.


Neuromuscular activity, organized in coordinated patterns, forms the basis of task-specific function in sports and exercise. The content and extent of these patterns may be variable, but include elements of activation/inhibition, co-activation, concentric/eccentric activation, proximal-to-distal activation, plyometric activation, and preactivation stiffness. They may be based on inherent neuromuscular architecture, but are commonly affected by positive or negative adaptations to imposed functional demands. Positive neuromuscular adaptations improve the efficiency of performing the task, which can result in less energy expenditure, maximum force delivered to the task, and protection of involved joints from excessive loads/motions, and improve the effectiveness of task performance. They frequently result from specific training in task mechanics and optimal conditioning of the neuromuscular structures involved in the task. Negative neuromuscular maladaptations can affect the efficiency of performing the task, increase energy expenditure and loads, decrease the effectiveness of task performance, and can be associated with clinical presentation of injury symptoms. They can result from overload, injury, and/or limited recovery. This chapter will focus specifically on shoulder joint function to provide examples of positive adaptations and negative maladaptations. It will then provide guidelines for clinical evaluation, treatment of clinical injury, and training/conditioning, based on understanding the neuromuscular activation.

Keywords: exercise; rotator cuff; scapula; stabilization.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology*