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Rotating Through the Causes of Rotator Cuff

Many of our readers have expressed interest in a common condition known as the rotator cuff injury group of disorders. The condition may also be known as subacromial bursitis, supraspinatus tendonitis, and pericapsulitis.

The rotator muscles of the shoulder are the muscles that support and rotate the shoulder and include mainly the subscapularis in front, the supraspinatus on top, and the infraspinatus and the teres minor from behind. These muscles stabilize the shoulder joint. 

The upper muscle, the supraspinatus ,is the most susceptible muscle to injury because the acromion process of the shoulder covers it above. If the position of the shoulder should shift then the acromion process will crush the supraspinatus. This can lead to pain, inflammation and even tearing of the muscle. The nerve supply to these muscles is primarily from C4 to C7 in the neck. 

Therefore, people with nerve disorders affecting the base of the neck may develop muscle shortening (see Cannonís Law) that affect the rotator group of muscles. The result is that these shoulder muscles will tighten and the tendons thicken becoming brittle and inflamed causing tendonitis. 

Interestingly enough, most people will have evidence on x-ray of C5 to C7 spinal disease by forty or fifty and most people will have evidence of rotator muscle tears on autopsy. This suggests that rotator cuff is driven, in part, by spinal disease. 

Finally, I have found that rotator cuff injuries are also driven by nerve problems in the upper thoracic spine- that is T1 to T4. Although the rotator muscles themselves are not supplied by T1 to T4, the upper thoracic spine supplies other muscles of the shoulder girdle. When these muscles develop nerve dysfunction, they will change the positioning of the shoulder increasing the risk of compression of the supraspinatus muscle by the acromion process. The supraspinatus is the primary muscle affected by "rotator cuff disorder." 

This would suggest that rotator cuff is also an upper thoracic condition. My experience tells me this is, at least in part, true. 

My treatment would therefore concentrate on specialized exercises focusing upon returning nerve function to the upper thoracic spine and neck and stretching of the shoulder girdle.  

The Lamb Program TM  

is a system of total body stretching for the reversal of multiple pain problems.


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  Last Updated: May 28, 2015

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