By: Arny Warkentin
You have probably heard people discuss the rotator cuff and its importance to the shoulder, but most people know very little about what the rotator cuff actually is.
The rotator cuff is made of 4 separate muscles: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. The first three are classified as external rotators (with elbow at side, moving your hand away from your body), and subscapularis is an internal rotator (with elbow at side, moving your hand toward your stomach).
While they do help perform those movements, the main purpose of these muscles is to keep the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) in the right place of the glenoid fossa (the socket to this ball and socket joint). This importance of this cannot be understated, as with every movement you do with the shoulder, these muscles are making sure the joint is stable and in the correct position.
Some common issues include tendinitis, rotator cuff tears, and impingement syndromes. These are common pathologies related to these muscles and ones that can be prevented with proper maintenance.
These muscles, especially the supraspinatus, generally have a poor blood supply, which is part of the reason why tendinitis and muscle tears are so prevalent. These muscles simply to not get enough blood under poor circumstances to recover and heal from daily stressors.
Impingement issues arise when the rotator cuff muscles are not properly adjusting the position of the joint, especially on overhead movements. This can cause tissues to get pinched between the joint and the acromioclavicular arch (follow your collar bone to the very edge of your shoulder bones, just under that area).
In future posts I will go more in depth with these issues and describe how massage therapy, and home-care exercises can reduce pain symptoms and decrease the risk of these issues.