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What is the Rotator Cuff and Why is it important?

Many of you have heard the words “rotator cuff” before, but some many not know exactly what that is. Well I am here to give you all the information that you need to know about what exactly is the rotator cuff and why it is such an important part of the human body.

The rotator cuff plays a huge part when it comes to shoulder stability and function. It is made up of four different muscles: Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis. Each of these muscles has its own function but all contribute to the stability of the shoulder joint. Infraspinatus (In-fra-spin-a-tus) and Teres Minor (tear-re-is minor) muscles primary function is external rotation. This happens you squeeze your shoulder blades together. The Supraspinatus (soup-ra-spin-a-tus) muscle primary function is internal rotation. To internally rotate your shoulder, twist your arm bringing your thumb towards your body (counter-clockwise). This muscle can easily be injuried, especially during throwing movements. The last muscle that makes up the rotator cuff is the Subscapularis (sub-scap-you-lar-is). Its primary function is abduction. To abduct your arm, just raise it up laterally from your side to shoulder height.

Many movements occur at the shoulder joint making it the most mobile joint in the human body. The lack of bone supporting the shoulder joint requires the muscles and tendons to work as stabilizers to prevent any dislocation of the shoulder joint. Being so mobile it also requires muscles to stabilize the joint. With so much going on in such a small area, without proper muscular balance and proper form when doing exercises or tasks of daily living, injuries can happen. Each injury is classified as either chronic (long) or acute (short). The most common exercise that injures the rotator cuff muscles involves motions over head. Any acute injuries are often related to some sort of trauma, often accompanied by severe loss of function. Signs and symptoms of an acute injury include feeling a sudden “tearing” sensation followed by immediate pain and loss of motion. When an injury occurs, the person is typically immobilized for 6 to 8 weeks to allow the repair to heal. Chronis injuries are more gradual worsening of pain and weakness where chronic tears are present. These symptoms can increase at night or after increased activity. To properly strengthen and develop all the muscular surrounding the shoulder joint requires a lot of attention and patience.

Always make sure to properly warm up and stretch out your muscles before doing any kind of activity. Practicing good form at all times will help prevent any injuries. Lastly, focusing on proper posture can make a world of difference. Think open chest, shoulders are back and down and standing up nice and tall. The more aware you are of your body and the way it works, the less likely you are to end up with an injury.

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