It’s Your Rotator Cuff?…Which One?

Did you know that the rotator cuff is a complex made up of 4 muscles which surround your shoulder and work together to keep the head of your humerus (upper arm bone) safely held in the shallow socket of your shoulder? When an injury occurs, there may be one muscle involved or all four may be involved, depending on the severity of the injury.

  1. Supraspinatus: the smallest of the 4 muscles and it helps you raise your arm up to the side. It also helps to stabilize the humerus inside of the socket when you move your arm. This muscle is the most commonly injured rotator cuff muscle. Injuries might include tendonitis, impingement, and/or partial or full tears.
  2. Infraspinatus: located at the back of the shoulder, infraspinatus helps to stabilize the shoulder and rotate your arm backwards. Injuries to the infraspinatus often occur with repetitive type activity. An infraspinatus injury may present as pain during sleeping, reaching overhead or reaching behind like into the back seat of the car.
  3. Subscapularis: the largest and strongest of the rotator cuff complex, subscapularis is a triangular shaped muscle that is locate on the inside of the scapula and attaches to the humerus. This muscle is responsible for the internal rotation of the shoulder which occurs when you reach into your back pocket. Injury to this muscle may present as pain in the front of the shoulder. You may also hear or feel “clicking” when you rotate your arm.
  4. Teres minor: a narrow, long muscle that is sometimes confused with infraspinatus. Teres minor originates from the lower outside border of the scapula (shoulder blade) and attaches to the humerus. This muscle helps to stabilize the shoulder joint and assists with rotating your arm backwards.

All the muscles of the rotator cuff, including the subscapularis, can tear from overuse, trauma, or age-related conditions. Tears can be small or can go through most of the muscle. The size of the tear determines what treatment is needed. Outside of tears, rotator cuff injuries may include tendonitis, impingements, and/or sprains and strains.

Physiotherapy is extremely effective in treating rotator cuff injuries and for many people, physio may be all that is needed. Manual therapy, active and passive exercises, acupuncture, modalities, postural training, and education may all be a part of your program. Should your injury require surgical intervention, our physiotherapists are here to ensure that you go into your surgery more than prepared so that your healing time is reduced once surgery is completed.

Got questions? Please ask! Or visit our website to learn more about what our A Body In Motion Team can do to help!

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