Shoulder Surgery? Understanding The 4 Rotator Cuff Muscles Of Your Shoulder

Posted on: 28 April 2015

If you are in need of shoulder surgery, then you should have a clear understanding of the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff area of your shoulder. By having a clear understanding about your shoulder's muscles, you can speak more clearly with your doctor about your medical condition.

The four muscles of your shoulder's rotator cuff are the:

  1. infraspinatus
  2. subscapularis
  3. suprascapularis
  4. teres minor

Below is some information on each of these muscles and the pain they typically cause when injured:

Muscle #1: The Infraspinatus

The infraspinatus muscle runs from your clavicle to your scapula. The infraspinatus muscle is responsible for external rotation of your humerus bone and for shoulder joint stability. This thin muscle is often the cause of rotator cuff pain because it is easy to tear. It is also a common location for bursitis pain. If you have pain when you reach your arm above your head, then you likely have a tear in your shoulder's infraspinatus muscle.

Muscle #2: The Subscapularis

The subscapularis muscle of your shoulder is large and triangular shaped. The subscapularis muscle connects the scapula to the humerus bone of your upper arm. Your shoulder uses the subscapularis muscle when you reach your arm above your head. If you have pain in your scapula area when you reach up your arm, then you likely have damage to your subscapularis muscle.

Muscle #3: The Supraspinatus

The supraspinatus muscle is located on the top of the subscapularis muscle. Its purpose is to help stabilize your shoulder joint against the pull from the weight of your arm. If you have a damaged supraspinatus muscle, then you will have pain when you move your arm forward.

Muscle #4: The Teres Minor

The teres minor muscle is located in the back of your armpit and runs from your shoulder joint to your ribs. This long thin muscle has the job of stabilizing your arm's humerus bone and laterally rotating your arm. When the teres minor muscle is injured, you will feel pain at the back of your armpit area when you reach your arm forward or above your head.


As you can clearly see, the rotator cuff muscles in your shoulder are very complex and work together well to support your shoulder joint and assist your arm movements. If you have additional questions about your upcoming shoulder surgery, then you should speak with your orthopedic surgeon. Best of luck with your upcoming surgery!