The physiotherapists at Comfort Health highlight the importance of looking after your rotator cuff muscles

I see it all of the time, people in the gym trying to get ‘bigger’ shoulders. But what are they actually doing? Are those lateral raises actually helping their shoulder strength and stability?

Our shoulders are incredibly complicated mobile joints due their ball and socket design, with movements created by around 30 muscles. In order to create powerful, dynamic movements we have a combination of large, strong superficial muscles (deltoid, pectoralis major, trapezius…). It is the smaller muscles of the rotator cuff however which work to stabilise the humeral head in the glenoid fossa of the scapula.

What exactly does ‘the rotator cuff’ mean?

The cuff comprises of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor) which form into a tendon, attaching onto the humeral head and drawing it into the glenoid fossa / shoulder joint.

What does it do?

Attached onto the scapula, the rotator cuff works to move the arm outwards into abduction, rotate your arm and maintain position of the humeral head in the shoulder joint during elevation. Weakness or poor functioning of these muscles can lead to movement dysfunctions, resulting in shoulder or arm pain, headaches and reduced function of other areas such as the neck and lower back.

So how can you keep your rotator cuff functioning?

Challenges of our day-to-day lives often mean our rotator cuff becomes imbalance. Poor posture at our desks and whilst driving rounds our shoulders, tightness through our pecs and upper traps pulls the humeral head into the front of the shoulder joint and so on.

There are some basic exercises that can help though:

Posture – when sitting at your desk, try to sit tall, your shoulders relaxed back and down

Pec stretch – a great stretch as it is the complete opposite direction from how we spend so much of our days. Use a door frame to help you; your forearm rests on the doorframe with shoulder and elbow at 90º Gently rotate your body away from your arm, opening up through the front of your chest.

Rotator cuff activation – a great exercise for at your desk or even the traffic lights! Bend your elbow to 90º, keeping it at your side. Place your other hand on top of your wrist and push gently outward with bent arm.

Rotator cuff patterns of movement – working the rotator cuff through a range of rotational movements can help to increase movement, stability and crucially address any imbalance. Watch our cuff pattern strength exercise here.

Recurrent shoulder problems? Book in for an assessment today at Comfort Health.