The Rotator Cuff

Image of the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff
What is it?

The rotator cuff (RTC) is located in your shoulder and is composed of four muscles. The suprasinatus, sucscapularis, infraspinatus, and teres minor. Many mistake the RTC for a singular structure that is similar to that of your labrum or meniscus. Mainly because these four muscles are talked about as a group oppose to individually. The main reason for this… They work as a group and rely on each other to complete the job they were designed for. 

How the RTC works

Each individual muscle activates and moves the shoulder in different directions. Although they each have individual abilities their real purpose is to work in unison with one another. As larger muscles, such as the deltoid and trapezius, elevate the shoulder, the RTC provides stability. Think of the individual muscles like fingers reaching out and attaching around the head of the humerus. This is important because the shoulder joint is like a golf ball on a tee. A large sphere like structure attached to a small concave surface. This allows for great mobility but at the expense of stability. The RTC is one aspect that helps provide that stability while in motion. 

Shoulder joint mechanics
What Does This Mean

When our static stabilizers (ligaments/ labrum) and dynamic stabilizers (muscles) are working, the shoulder functions as designed. However, as we age and put the joint through activity, things start to break down. We can have trauma to the RTC from acute injuries such as falls, lifting, or throwing without properly training. We can also have chronic damage to the RTC that developed with years of over use. Imagine one of the four muscles stops pulling its weight and starts to weaken. This may lead it to being damaged or put the other three muscles at risk for having to compensate. This imbalance can also lead to the shoulder shifting around more than desired through movements. Ultimately putting other structures at risk for injury. 

What Can We Do?

There are two main ways to combat these changes our body will be forced to deal with. We can be proactive or reactive. If you have an acute or overuse injury already, you will have to react. Some serious injuries will require surgery. Many can be addressed through targeted treatment and strength training. If you have yet to experience a shoulder injury, don’t celebrate just yet. It is very possible there are potential imbalances that could lead to further issues down the road. Getting screened and identifying potential concerns can help reinforce your shoulder joint. 

Why Is This Important?

Our shoulders make much of what we do in life possible. From throwing a baseball to picking up your children to putting dishes away, they need to be strong and mobile. In today’s world we are living much longer, and we need to ensure our shoulders are up to the task. Thankfully there is a lot we can do to reinforce our shoulder joints and ensure they are ready to take on whatever we put them through. The important thing is to work with someone who can not just identify where your pain or limitations are but determine why this is happening. This will allow you to know what is necessary to fix the root cause of the problem. Don’t push it off any more, set up a Free Discovery Call today to find out how you can improve your shoulder function.

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