Ever wonder what helps you to make all your arm and shoulder motions? The rotator cuff which is a group of four muscles that hold your upper arm in place in your shoulder is responsible for all the actions you are able to do using the arm and shoulders. These four muscles originate in your shoulder blade though the other end of the muscle leads to different parts of your upper arm bone. The rotator cuff is made up of the four muscles and their attached tendons.
The rotator cuff almost forms a thick covering at the top of the humerus which is the bone in the upper arm. In fact, the muscle starts on the shoulder blade and connects to the humerus. Each of the four rotator cuff muscles aids in a specific motion of the shoulder. All the muscles attach to the upper part of your humerus at a different point. Let’s look at the muscles separately in detail and learn about the functions of the rotator cuff.
Supraspinatus – is responsible for abduction which is the movement away from the centerline of your body. The supraspinatus produces about the first 15 degrees of motion and following which the deltoid and trapezius muscles takes over.
Infraspinatus – is a thick triangular main muscle responsible for lateral rotation of the arm away from the centerline of the body. It covers the back of your shoulder blade deep below the skin and close to the bone.
Teres minor – is a small, narrow muscle on the back of your shoulder blade just below the infraspinatus. It is responsible for the lateral or external rotation of the arm.
Subscapularis – is a large triangular-shaped muscle located below the other muscles. It’s the strongest, largest, and most used of the four rotator cuff muscles. Apart from all shoulder motions it is also especially important for medial rotation of the arm toward the midline of your body. The subscapularis attaches to the front and not the back, of the upper arm like the other three muscles of the rotator cuff.
As for the functional aspects of the rotator cuff, its most important job is no doubt in stabilizing the shoulder joint. The elevating, rotating actions are also important functions along with ensuring the head of the humerus stays securely placed in the shoulder socket. Each rotator cuff muscle performs a specific and important function for your shoulder joint and for some actions they work in tandem as well. The top functions of the rotator cuff include;
- The supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscles all work together to stabilize the head of the humerus in the shoulder joint.
- The supraspinatus performs the abducting motion or elevating the shoulder joint out to the side.
- The infraspinatus and teres minor muscles are responsible for externally rotating the shoulder joint.
- The subscapularis muscle performs the additional function of depressing the head of the humerus. This allows the humerus to move freely in the shoulder joint during the elevation of the arm.
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