The Supraspinatus Muscle And Specific Shoulder Injuries

The supraspinatus muscle is one of four muscles that comprise your rotator cuff. Out of the four, it is the most common location for shoulder injuries. There are many reasons why this muscle is injured more frequently, ranging from its anatomical location, to the specific load that is placed through the muscle during certain motions and activities.

Anatomically, the supraspinatus is located on the top portion of your shoulder blade. The muscle runs laterally, underneath what is referred to as your AC joint, to where it attaches to your humerus bone. The AC joint is where your collarbone and the shoulder blade connect. It is at this general area where much of the trouble is caused.

Occurring both as we age, and with overuse, the AC joint develops bone spurs along the underside of the joint. These spurs can then rub against the muscle and lead to tendonitis, and worst case, ruptures. They also reduce the amount of space that the suprapinatus has to move, which can lead to impingement.

Impingement is a painful condition where the muscle gets compressed underneath the AC joint. Two common factors that contribute to this are poor posture and bone spurs. Impingement can also be related to a fluid filled piece of tissue called a bursa. A bursa is a small piece of tissue that typically rests in between soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) and bone. The bursa helps reduce friction between the two, allowing for a smooth glide of the muscle during use. If it becomes inflamed, it is called bursitis.

Tendonitis (inflammation of a tendon), which is an overuse injury, can also contribute to bursitis. Tendonitis is traditionally caused when too much stress is placed through the tendon which leads to irritation. Too much stress could mean weight, frequency, faulty mechanics, or a combination of all three.

For golfers, it is typically the repetitiveness of the golf swing, combined with any mechanical errors that will lead to having too much stress through the rotator cuff. This is why working on your swing and posture is extremely important for all golfers.

Athletes are more prone to these type of injuries simply from the repetitive motions, as well as overhead motions which tend to increase stress.

In addition to overuse injuries, rotator cuff tears are also very common. And again, the supraspinatus is the muscle most commonly torn. It is possible to carry on with a rotator cuff tear, especially if you have strength in surrounding muscles to help pick up the slack. However, it is unlikely that you will ever be 100%. Tears in any of the rotator cuff muscles very often end in surgery, especially if you are younger or looking to remain active.

In order to help prevent rotator cuff injuries, you need to institute a strengthening regimen for all shoulder and scapular stabilize muscles. Please consult the Shoulder Strengthening page for specific exercises.



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