Anatomy 101: The Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons provide stability in the shoulder, attaching around the head of the humerus bone, encircling it like a cuff. These four muscles include:

  • Infraspinatous: This muscle is positioned more behind the shoulder joint. It helps to externally rotate the arm, for example, when you are throwing a ball.
  • Supraspinatous: This muscle forms the upper border of the rotator cuff. It helps you bring your arm away from your body.
  • Subscapularis: This is the only rotator cuff muscle that is actually in front of the shoulder. It helps rotate the arm toward the body, such as when you touch your stomach.
  • Teres Minor: This muscle primarily helps externally rotate the shoulder, but it also helps pull the arm into the body.

The rotator cuff can suffer from injuries, especially as we get older and it begins to deteriorate. In fact, most rotator cuff problems stem from aging. Other injuries can occur due to an accident. Some signs that your rotator cuff may be injured include:

  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Restricted motion
  • Catching
  • Locking
  • Feeling of instability

If you’re feeling any of these symptoms around the shoulder, visit a hand surgeon. Hand surgeons can treat the shoulder as well as the hand, wrist, arm and elbow. The surgeon will evaluate you and possibly take an x-ray to learn more about your injury.

Many times, rotator cuff pain/injuries can be treated by altering your activity, physical therapy or pain relievers. But, talk to your surgeon about the best treatment option for you. Find a hand surgeon in your area.

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