If you haven’t yet, read the supraspinatus muscle pain post. It will give you a good background on the muscle, what it does and how you can test it for injury. We know it is one of the rotator cuff muscles, and is the most commonly injured. The good news is there is a lot of great ways to treat a supraspinatus muscle tear, and you can be pain free in no time.
Causes of Supraspinatus tear
A torn supraspinatus muscle can come about in one of two ways.
- Acute: Occurs in one motion, usually due to a high force through the muscle.
- Chronic: Occurs over time due to overuse and degeneration.
Acute Supraspinatus Injury
It can be due to a considerable force through the muscle, that is more than the muscle and tendon can withhold. It can happen during heavy lifting overhead, falling down and bracing with your arm, pushing or pulling awkwardly or during a very strong throwing motion.
Chronic Supraspinatus Injury
Supraspinatus tears can also come about over time. Often this muscle is overworked, due to repetitive movements that are placing strain on the area. You can cause degeneration and weakness in the muscle gradually, and eventually it cannot withstand the force anymore. Athletes that are involved in throwing or hitting sports, such as baseball and volleyball are particularly predisposed to this problem. People that are often lifting, pushing and pulling, and doing overhead activities are also at risk. The supraspinatus can become inflamed and aggravated and begin to degenerate. When it can’t withstand the forces anymore, small or partial supraspinatus tears develop.
In both cases these factors can contribute to a supraspinatus tear.
- Bad biomechanics and technique.
- Neck and shoulder tightness.
- Imbalances and weakness in the muscle
- Bad posture, i.e sitting at a desk with hunched shoulders.
- Poor Warmup
How Do You Know You Have a Torn Supraspinatus Muscle
There are distinct symptoms of a supraspinatus tear that will help you identify your problem. Firstly, if you feel like you have torn your muscle you should go and see a medical practitioner right away and get a formal diagnosis. The best way to begin appropriate rehabilitation is to know exactly what you are dealing with.
You can do a supraspinatus test, as discussed previously in supraspinatus muscle pain, and if you come up positive for either you know you have an injury to the area. However, when talking about a tear in the supraspinatus you can often feel when it happens. A sudden pain, hotness and tearing feeling will occur in the shoulder area during activities that provoke it. Depending on the severity of the injury you may be able to continue the activity, just with pain. The pain is usually felt in the shoulder.
In particular with the supraspinatus muscle you will have difficulty elevating the arm, or using it in front of the body. If the tear is not significant you may only feel an ache in the area, not sharp pain. In severe cases, you will not be able to bring the arm over your head and can cause pain at night.
Supraspinatus Tear Treatment
There are several steps involved in treating a supraspinatus tear, and quite a few of them you can do at home by yourself. Ideally the process will include a formal diagnosis, time for the inflammation and tear to heal, possibly some NSAIDS and anti-inflammatory medicine, physical treatment such as massage or dry needling, followed by exercises rehabilitation. This can be in the form of hydrotherapy, shoulder exercises as well as biomechanics and technical corrections. We will focus on the two things you can do yourself at home to enhance your supraspinatus tear treatment… Self Massage and Exercise Rehabilitation.
This is very important for a few reasons. Often the muscles surrounding the area can be tight and aggravated. Not only does this cause pain in itself, it can contribute to supraspinatus problems by not allowing the should rot move correctly, and impingement and biomechanics problems occur. Conversely, the muscles can tighten up due to an acute injury, and need releasing in order for the supraspinatus to heal correctly.
You can also use self massage to correctly muscle imbalances and biomechanics problems. in particular if you don’t have enough thoracic mobility you can be placing a lot of stress on the area as your shoulder mobility is decreased. Thoracic mobility and function directly affects the scapula, which is where the supraspinatus originates. You can also loosen areas of tightness than may be causes insufficiency in other areas.
Grab a Tennis Ball and do the following exercises. If you want more information on how to use a tennis ball and a foam roller to release your shoulder and more, check out the Self Massage Guide.
Thoracic mobility is essential for healthy shoulder blade movement Use two tennis balls in a sock on either side of the spine.
It is important to release the trapezius as it lies directly above the supraspinatus.
Release the pecs to help avoid rounded shoulders and improve posture.
Releasing the infraspinatus will place less pressure on the supraspinatus.
Supraspinatus Tear Exercises
Here are a variety of exercises you should perform after the initial stages of your tear are healed. They are not all specifically targeting just the supraspinatus, but the rotator cuff in general. Remember weakness in the other muscles of the rotator cuff can cause insufficiency and problems at the supraspinatus. Do these exercises with your weights program, or at least 2 sets of 10 three times a week. You’ll feel stronger and more mobile in the shoulder area.
Don’t forget that if you feel you have suffered from a tear, go to see a medical practitioner to get a full diagnosis before you start rehabilitation.