The Supraspinatus Muscle

Supraspinatus – Rotator Cuff Muscle

David Keil Anatomy, Upper Limb 2 Comments

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The Rotator Cuff Muscles: Supraspinatus

The “rotator cuff” gets its name as a result of the common tendinous attachment of all of the rotator cuff muscles and the way that the attachment sits over the head of the humerus. This common tendinous attachment drapes over the top of the humerus and resembles a shirt cuff enough that someone decided to called it the rotator “cuff”!

The rotator cuff muscles are sometimes referred to as the SITS muscles. Each letter stands for one of the muscles in the group.

They are:The Supraspinatus Muscle

  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres Minor
  • Subscapularis

I often refer to the rotator cuff muscles as dynamic stabilizers since they both stabilize and control the movement of the head of the humerus.

What does supraspinatus mean?

  • Supra is similar to the word superior and means above.
  • Spinatus refers to the spine of the scapula – that’s the ridge on the scapula that is almost horizontal.

Where does the supraspinatus muscle attach?

  • On the scapular end, the supraspinatus muscle attaches to a depression (fossa) on the top of the scapula that is technically called the supraspinous fossa.
  • On the other end it attaches onto the very top of the head of the humerus.

What actions does the supraspinatus muscle do?

  • In terms of movement, supraspinatus does only one action, abduction of the humerus (first 10 degrees).
  • It also stabilizes the head of the humerus in the socket.

What are the common injuries to the supraspinatus muscle?

Rotator Cuff Tear

The most common injury associated with the rotator cuff muscles are muscle tears. This is especially true of the supraspinatus muscle which is the most commonly torn rotator cuff muscle.

When a tear occurs, the person typically has difficulty abducting their arm and often leans to the side in order to make it seem like their arm is abducting.

Symptoms can include generalized shoulder pain. It’s not uncommon for someone with a rotator cuff tear to be woken at night by the pain.

Frozen Shoulder

All of the rotator cuff muscles can be involved in cases of frozen shoulder. For more on this, check out the guest post on yoga and frozen shoulder.

People who get this condition often wake up one morning and have extremely limited range of motion. Sometimes the cause is completely unknown (idiopathic), sometimes it stems from rotator cuff tears, and sometimes it arises just from an acute strain of the shoulder.

Postures Where The Supraspinatus Contracts

supraspinatus muscle in warrior 2

Any time the arms abduct, the supraspinatus contracts to initiate that movement.

Postures Where The Supraspinatus Lengthens

supraspinatus muscle in vatayanasana

It is hard to find examples of adduction that would stretch the supraspinatus. Vatayanasana with the elbows a little lower would start to get at it.

Trigger Points

Trigger Points in the Supraspinatus

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About David Keil

This website is simply about delivering yoga anatomy to the yoga community in a simple and understandable way. It has always been about you, the reader, understanding the complexity and diversity of our own humanness as well as our anatomy.

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Comments 2

  1. I’ve had a Bankart repair 2 years ago after several shoulder dislocations. Been working hard to strengthen my rotator cuff since then, and feel pretty stable. But, in my ashtanga practice, I still have 2 major limitations: When straightening the arm over my head in Utthita Parsvakonasana, and I also feel too afraid to fully straighten out in Urdhva Dhanurasana. Do you have any advice for progress here, or should I just accept that I shall back off from trying to progress in these two asanas? Would appreciate any advices. Thanks/Leif

  2. Pingback: Supraspinatus: Learn Your Muscles - Custom Pilates and Yoga

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