One of the most common concerns that I hear is, “My shoulder hurts. I have difficulty raising my arm. Basic everyday movements cause me pain and discomfort”. Most times, it’s not the shoulder muscles (front, side, or rear deltoid muscles) it’s the rotator cuff muscles.
What are the rotator cuff muscles and what are their functions?
ln simple terms without getting to deep into medical terms, the rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles. These individual muscles join at the shoulder to form a “cuff” over the shoulder.
The four parts of the rotator cuffs are:
Supraspinatus- This muscle starts above the spine of the scapula or top of shoulder blade and inserts on the greater tuberosity of the humerus. The supraspinatus function is to externally rotate the shoulder joint away from the midline, abduct, and elevate the shoulder joint out to the side. It also works with other rotator cuff muscles to stabilize the head of the shoulder joint.
Infraspinatus- This muscle originates below the spine of the scapula and inserts onto the greater tubercle of the humerus. The infraspinatus also externally rotates the shoulder joint away from the midline of the body and stabilizes the head of the shoulder joint as well.
Teres minor- This muscle originates on the lateral part of the scapula just below the infraspinatus and inserts into the inferior aspect of the greater tuberosity of the humerus. The teres minor also externally rotates the shoulder joint away from the midline of the body and it also stabilizes the head of the shoulder joint.
Subscapularis- This muscle, deep in the shoulder blade, originates on the anterior surface of the scapula and sits directly over the ribs and inserts on the lesser tubercle of the shoulder joint. The subscapularis muscle depresses the top or head of the shoulder allowing you to move freely in the shoulder joint and during elevation of the arm. The subscapularis internally rotates the shoulder joint towards the midline of the body and it also stabilizes the head of the shoulder joint.
Basically, all four rotator cuffs work together to consolidate the humerus bone in the shoulder joint so when you lift your arm up the rotator cuff muscles pull the joint together and stabilize the shoulder joint. Whenever one or several of these tendons get overworked from repetitive movements or an imbalance, these tendons become inflamed or irritated; sometimes called “impingement syndrome”. This is not an overnight situation, it occurs over time.
How can Massage help rotator cuff tendonitis?
Massage in general, is one of the best methods for increasing blood flow to the injured area, therefore increasing the healing process. Massage therapy also helps to reduce scar tissue which over time restrict mobility of the joint. There are many modalities to help treat rotator cuff tendonitis. Upon a thorough assessment, a specific comprehensive care/treatment plan will be designed to meet the client’s goals and needs.