You've had minor pain in your should for a while but it only hurt when you do very specific movements so you've decided to ride it out. But as you go on, the pain doesn't go away and gets even a little more painful. You decided to go see a doctor and after a few tests, they tell you it's your rotator cuff. You've heard this term before, and your doc explains it's small muscles in the back of the shoulder but that doesn't explain much.
Let's dive a little deeper into what exactly is the rotator cuff and how you can go back to moving your shoulder pain free.
Muscles of the rotator cuff and their actions
The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles. They all originated from the scapula and insert on the humerus. They are small, deep muscles, so they are going to play a big role in stabilization of the shoulder and will assist the superficial muscles like the delts to move the shoulder around.
Action: it internally rotates the arm. Imagine you are standing up with you arms by your side, your palms facing you. If you were to rotate the arm so that they stayed beside your body and your palms now faced behind you, that is the work of the subscap.
Action: it raises the arm. It works hand in hand with the delts.
Action: it does the opposite action of the subscap. It externally rotates the arms and plays a minor role in raise it.
It also externally rotates the arm.
What causes rotator cuff injuries?
The shoulder being a delicate joint because it can go in any directions, the causes of injuries are very high. Common causes include over use of these muscles like repetitive sports movement, excessive weightlifting in a short time period, acute injuries like a bad fall, and the most common one: pour posture.
The most common postural flaw is the rounded shoulders. We will not go into details about how rounded shoulders happen (usually by working at a computer amongst other things) but what we need to know is that they cause your Subscap to shorten, your supra to go rub places it shouldn't, and your infra and teres minor to over stretch.
All this can cause wild problems if left unaddressed.
Because if your subscap is too short, any external rotation will pull on it excessively, limiting that motion. If you supra's tendon rubs where it shouldn't that will cause irritation and all over head movements will be painful. If the infra and teres and overly stretch, contracting them main be painful and any external rotation movement will be difficult.
Thankfully, it is easy to fix these flaws.
Consult with a physician before trying any of these exercises as their sole purpose is to stretch the subscap and strengthen the infra and teres.
If you take care of these three muscles, the 4th one, the supraspinatus will naturally start feeling better.
Here is my favourite external rotation stretch, this will target the subscap and stretch it out. Remember that the main postural flaw makes this muscle too tight, hence why we want to stretch.
Grab a dowel or broom in your right hand like demonstrated bellow and use your left hand to pull towards the left.
Hold stretch for 1 minute per side.
Strengthen the infra and teres muscle with the classic hands out thumbs out exercise. Grab a light resistance band and set up as demonstrated below.
- Keep your shoulders down and keep your elbows slightly forward. Check out the pic below to see where to put the elbows
- Do the movement slowly, take two seconds to pull the band apart and two seconds to bring it back.
- Do 3 sets 10 reps
Remember guys, you can teach your body to do a lot of cool stuff, and you can make your body feel better by learning how to make it move better.
Enjoy pain free life,