Rotator Cuff Therapy Exercises

Muscles of the Rotator Cuff

Here is some more information on the muscles of the rotator cuff. I hope you have been learning from the information you have read so far.

I really believe it is important to try to understand your own body.

It was so vital to me when I suffered torn rotator cuff symptoms to learn how I could undertake my own rotator cuff injury treatment.

In a previous section I explained how important the muscles of the rotator cuff are in maintaining shoulder stability.

How even doing a little exercise is so important maintaining the health of your rotator cuff muscles.

In this section I want to move on to talk about the other major role of the rotator cuff muscles.

Shoulder and arm movement

All of the muscles of the rotator cuff have separate and distinct roles to play in shoulder, arm and hand movement. That is why the rotator cuff anatomy is such a complex subject.

Each of the muscles of the rotator cuff is separately responsible for starting most arm movements in most body planes. This is then generally aided or taken over by surrounding muscles such as the deltoid.

A specific example is that the supraspinatus and teres minor muscles are considered the most efficient abductors. They are also considered to be the most efficient humeral head depressors of all the rotator cuff muscles.

Abduction in the shoulder, as referred too above, is a movement which draws the arm away from the Median or Sagittal plane of the body.

Or in simple layman's terms lifts the arm. Adduction is the exact opposite. The diagram below of the various anatomical planes should hopefully make it all a little clearer.

muscles of the rotator cuff I talk in much greater detail about the individual muscles of the rotator cuff in muscles section.

I explain about how the individual rotator cuff muscles each control movement of different types.

I also give a little detail about how they interact with the other muscles working on the shoulder area, such as the deltoid and the triceps.

Importance of shoulder stability

Despite the movement properties the muscles of the rotator cuff, it is the part the rotator cuff muscles play in shoulder stability that is the key.

It is about the muscles of the rotator cuff having the ability to work together, to ensure stability, whilst maintaining individual function.

Without the complex nature of rotator cuff anatomy and the compressing action of the rotator cuff muscles, as discussed in the shoulder rotator cuff section, the humerus could "ride up" out of the joint.

This encroachment or riding up of the humeral head beneath the acromion can reduce the available shoulder space. I have gone on to explain in more detail about the problems that can be caused by the acromion in more detail in the next section on rotator cuff impingement.

This shoulder space, between the top of the humeral head and the bottom surface of the acromion is normally only five to ten millimetres deep. This space is further reduced when for example the arm is lifted up.


This shoulder space and maintaining the gap is crucial. It is this space that enables the rotator cuff tendons and their lubricating bursa, see below, to glide unscathed beneath the acromion.

Any reduction in this space can cause impingement or abrasion of the rotator cuff muscles. Impingement is simply the muscles or tendons of the rotator cuff becoming squashed between the acromion and the humerus.

It is this squashing or impingement of the muscles of the rotator cuff that very often results in a tear or weakness forming in the rotator cuff muscles. Torn rotator cuff symptoms, as we know, can be very painful.

Rotator cuff injury treatment can be time consuming and expensive. Therefore whatever action we take now to exercise and strengthen our rotator cuff muscles will pay handsome dividends in the future.

Bursa and movement within the shoulder

Movement in the shoulder joint and of the rotator cuff muscles is aided by the presence of bursa or bursae (plural). Bursae are found in almost every major joint in the human body.

Bursae permit smooth gliding between bone, muscle and tendons. Specifically in the shoulder joint there are two such bursae and they cushion and protect the rotator cuff muscles from the bony arch of the acronium.

A Bursa is a small fluid filled sack lined by a synovial membrane with an inner layer of synovial fluid. This fluid is quite slimy and is in fact very similar in consistency to egg white. In fact that is how it came to be named as the word "synovium" comes from a Latin word meaning "with egg".

In another section titled rotator cuff impingement I explain in more detail about how acromion can differ in different people and lead to problems. In fact how even the shape of the bursae can cause impingement problems. This emphasises just how important it is to have healthy muscles of the rotator cuff.

Go from Muscles of the Rotator Cuff back to the Rotator Cuff Exercises

Go back to Rotator Cuff Muscles

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