The supraspinatus muscle is one of the muscles of the rotator cuff. As a group the rotator cuff muscles work on the shoulder, each muscle of the rotator cuff performs a different movement but they all work to stabilise the shoulder heavily. Injuries to this area are common, of all the rotator cuff muscles this one is affected the most often. People that work overhead, athletes in throwing or hitting sports, or those sitting at the desk with their shoulders constantly hunched are most at risk.
What Is The Supraspinatus?
The supraspinatus muscle runs along the top of the shoulder blade, directly above the spine of the scapula. The supraspinatus tendon inserts into the humerus, which is the upper arm bone.
It works to lift the arm up to the side, abducting the arm from the body. It does it’s largest work in the initial 10-15 degrees of movement if you are taking the arm away from the side of the body. For the rest of that arc, the Deltoid muscle becomes the biggest contributor. It works to externally rotate the shoulder when the arm is abducted, which means when the arm is raised to the side. However it works to internally rotate the arm in flexion, when it is brought up in front of the body. The supraspinatus also helps to keep the head of the humerus in the shoulder socket during many movements.
Supraspinatus Muscle Injury
If you are experiencing problems in the shoulder and you suspect that it might be surpraspinatus muscle pain, there are two important tests that you can do. The first test can be done against the wall by yourself. Stand next to the wall, and start to raise your arm up against it. If you feel pain it’s a positive test and it is likely that your supraspinatus is affected.
The second test you should do it commonly known as the supraspinatus empty can test. Hold your arms out in front of you (flexed), and internally rotate your arm. This means that your thumbs should be pointing down much like you were emptying a can. You should then try to raise your arms. If you feel pain in the shoulder then it is likely that you have a problem in your supraspinatus.
You may have suffered from a supraspinatus tear, supraspinatus impingement or you may simply have supraspinatus inflammation. Regarding the latter, there is also a bursa (fat bad) lying around the supraspinatus and when it gets aggravated the bursa can also become inflamed and cause problems.
It is important if you have suffered a supraspinatus injury to rehabilitate correctly. Check out the upcoming post on supraspinatus tear treatment. Briefly, both injuries that can occur will require you to initially rest the area, to start to heal the tear or to reduce the inflammation. You should avoid painful overhead movements.
Often these problems are caused by overuse and weakness in the muscle. You will need to do specific exercises to strengthen the muscle, to avoid further injury. Remember if you have a weak supraspinatus, you are putting your shoulder health at risk in general. It is one of the most important muscles in shoulder stability, and when it is not functioning correctly you are putting yourself at risk for many other shoulder injuries.
If you suffer from tightness in the area, it is a good idea to do some general soft tissue work on the shoulder. You will find that the supraspinatus impinges much easier when the other muscles are not working correctly. Getting a tennis ball and working through the area is a very effective way to help you pain. Check out the self massage guide for step by step instructions on how to relieve your shoulder pain.