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Understanding the Rotator Cuff and Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is one of the most common diagnoses we see in the clinic. One of the most popular questions that patients with shoulder pain ask is, “did I tear my rotator cuff?” Most patients have heard of the rotator cuff, however, what the rotator cuff is still remains a mystery to most.

For a better understanding of shoulder pain, we need to cover some basic anatomy. The shoulder or glenohumeral joint is made up of the humerus (your upper arm) and the glenoid fossa of the scapula (shoulder blade). The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. A good analogy to provide a visual of the shoulder is to picture a golf ball sitting on a golf tee. The “golf ball” is the head of your humerus and the “golf tee” is your glenoid fossa.

The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles that move your shoulder in all different directions. These muscles are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. All of these muscles start on your shoulder blade and attach to your upper arm bone. The role of these four muscles is to keep the golf ball on the tee. The most commonly injured rotator cuff muscle is the supraspinatus (1).

Are you wondering if your shoulder pain is caused by a rotator cuff injury? Check out the video below where I cover symptoms of rotator cuff tears, the cause for rotator cuff tears, and most importantly, an exercise to take stress off of the rotator cuff to make your shoulders happier!

If you are dealing with shoulder pain, click the link below to schedule your free discovery visit with a physical therapist at Buffalo Rehab Group.

1. Wani Z, Abdulla M, Habeebullah A, Kalogriantis S. Rotator cuff tears: Review of epidemiology, clinical assessment and operative treatment. Trauma. 2016;18(3):190-204.