The Rotator Cuff: Preventing Pain & Injury
Understanding the Rotator Cuff
You've probably heard a lot about the rotator cuff...you might even have experienced a rotator cuff injury before. But what exactly is it? Why is it important? And how can we prevent (further) injury? The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that are responsible for keeping the arm (humerus bone) attached the shoulder socket (scapula). The tendons of these muscles wrap around the head of the humerus, uggin the humerus to the shoulder socket. This is a tougher job than it might seem; our arms actually have a pretty shallow connection to the shoulder sockets. This shallow connection gives our arms a lot of mobility but not a lot of stability. It's one of the reasons why shoulder injuries are among the most common types of injuries and why everyone should invest a little more time in toning these highly functional muscles.
Let's take a closer look at what these muscles are, where they are located and what they do. The rotator cuff muscles include:
- Infraspinatus: Located on the back of the shoulder blade and arm bone, the infraspinatus is one of the largest rotator cuff muscles. This muscle outwardly (laterally) rotates the arm and horizontally abducts the arm (see below).
- Teres Minor: Teres minor is a smaller muscle located just beneath the infraspinatus on the back of the shoulder blade and arm. It also performs similar actions (lateral rotation and horizontal abduction) as the infraspinatus.
- Supraspinatus: This muscle is located along a groove near the top of the backside of the scapula and connects over the top of the arm bone. This muscle works to lift the arms out to the sides from a relaxed position (abduction - see below). Suprasinatus is the most commonly injured rotator cuff muscle.
- Subscapularis: Also a large muscle, the subscapularis connects from the front side of the scapula to the front of the arm bone. It inwardly (medially) rotates and horizontally adducts the arm at the shoulder joint (see below).
5 Poses for Strengthening the Rotator Cuff
By keeping our rotator cuff muscles toned, we can reduce the chance of injury to the area. If you've ever injured a rotator cuff muscle, then you'll know that strengthening these muscles is typially part of the recovery process once the area is healed. Below are five moves you can incorporate into your yoga practice (or workout) to keep these muscles in their best working condition.