The infraspinatus is one of those muscles that often gets neglected and misused, but needs great attention and care. Originating at the infraspinous fossa of the scapula and inserting at the middle facet on the greater tuberosity of the humerus, the infraspinatus does the important job of laterally rotating the arm at the shoulder while holding the humeral head in the glenoid cavity of the scapula.
This important rotator cuff muscle is a prime mover (the agonist or muscle that contracts) in adduction and external rotation, which means that if there is too much adduction and external rotation, this muscle will be overworked and literally be in agony. If there is too much abduction and internal rotation, this muscle can be overstretched and can lead to injury and overuse. So, what is the solution? “Balance” and “everything in moderation” may sound cliché, but they are mantras when it comes to keeping your infraspinatus healthy and vibrant.
Before we get into fun ways to Tune Up your infraspinatus, here’s some serious information you need to know for optimal care of this essential muscle. When the infraspinatus does its job well and externally rotates the humerus, it draws the greater tuberosity away from the acromion. This prevents a condition called impingement, which involves compression of the subacromial bursa between the greater tuberosity of the humerus and the acromion, resulting in shoulder pain.
Our electronically charged society where texting anytime, anywhere, is the thing to do, along with driving (not to mention texting while driving) and sitting endlessly at a computer, brings the shoulders in a position of prolonged internal rotation. The last time I got my hair cut at the salon, I was surprised to see so many women holding their iPhones overhead and texting while they were having their hair washed. Prolonged internal rotation while the arms shoulders are in flexion is not a happy position for the infraspinatus. Maybe if these women read this blog post they will try to care as much for their muscles as their hair.
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Thanks for the lowdown on the infraspinatus. As time goes on and we hear more about “text neck”, it makes me realize how much external rotation work we have to do to balance out our students!
I love the bite-sized anatomy lesson tune-up with practical applications. I’m engaged and ready for the next bite!
Thanks for this. It really brings to light the complex job of the infraspinatus and how critical the stability of this muscles is to the function of our shoulder in our over “tech-i-fied” society. As someone who has done one too many down dogs the “wrong way” this external rotation / adduction is becoming a major focus in my personal practice. Thanks!
Thank you for this article. It is so important to keep a healthy ” balance” in our Rotator Cuff Muscles.
It was very informative to read about the Infraspinatus, since there is a tendency to focus more on the Supraspinatus.
Excellent article – thank you! I now understand better the role of the infraspinatus and how to keep healthy shoulders. I’ll be more mindful about internal rotation of the shoulder now!
Thanks for the article. Unfortunately the new generation communicates mostly by texting. And may be if somebody explain them how much important nor overuse their shoulders, we will have healthier kids
Thank you for your insights! I agree with the sentiment of working smarter rather than harder, so thank you for giving us all permission to seek balance instead of overtraining.
Excellent article – thank you! As a physiotherapist i often catch myself assessing people while I stand in lines or walking outside and more times than not, everyone has their phone in their hands, head down and forward and shoulders rounded (protracted and internally rotated). It is very rarely do I see someone with really nice posture. I figure skated competitively for years, so I am a bit more award of my posture and I often get asked how tall i am, despite being “average” height! Proper posture goes a long way for preventing preventable long term injuries.
Thank you Ilene, The title of your blog post caught my eye. I am a firm believer in the idea of working smarter and not harder. I am currently taking the Level 1 teacher training. This was a good review of what we covered in class.
Well I think I’ve just targeted the reason for my left shoulder pain… a quick roll on the balls across my infraspinatus, and it clears for the time being. I’ll keep after it; thank you!
Great blog regarding the infraspinatus. I wish more people outside the yoga community would read this blog. It would be very helpful. I am curious to see what will happen the infraspinatus and teres minor (along with the other “locked long”) muscles from texting too much with adolescents. This would be a great research study to do a longitudinal study on this population who have been raised with cell phones and texting and to see how this impacts not only their external rotator muscles, but their overall posture. In addition, it would be interesting to see what happens with their flexor forward and thenar muscles. Thanks again for posting this.
Thank you! I think we are going to see an epidemic of over stretched infraspinatus muscles and bursitis (among other physical problems) in our generation of texters. As you said, moderation in everything!!
Thanks Ilene for drawing our attention to how impingement can easily happen. This explains why we keep our shoulders in external rotation when we do Downward Facing Dog.
I have suffered years residual pain from a rotator cuff injury sustained during my intensive dance training. I had almost giving up hope that I would ever be able to feel pain free in the joint. I experienced so much cracking and snapping in the joint and certain angle of movement would trigger deep internal pain. The shoulder quick fix and the ytu ball have done wonders and excavate the deep physical and emotional scar tissue in my shoulders. I am happy to say that I 98% pain free with hope that I can achieve 100%
A great description of the role of this muscle. My infraspinatus is extremely overused and I am certainly paying the price! I will definitely be more mindful about internal rotation of the shoulder now!!
Oh my goodness yes!! like Michael said. light bulb moment!!
I always catch myself tensing my shoulders in internal rotation. super helpful. Thanks for posting.. 🙂
“When the infraspinatus does its job well and externally rotates the humerus, it draws the greater tuberosity away from the acromion.” Great information and clarification on how this muscle helps to keep your shoulder healthy.
This article helped spark a lightbulb moment for me. I personally have a postural tendency to internally rotate my shoulders. Consequentially my infraspinatus is weak. Although I am able to do a lot of gross motor motions utilizing my shoulders, but rely most heavily on my trapezius and rhomboids. On second thought, trapezius is also prone to tension and injury! (lightbulb moment here). The details in this post have helped me shed some light and reason through some of the imbalances that I have in my shoulders, and have given me a good lead on how to balance and strengthen them and help prevent future injuries. Thank you for posting it!
Good things there are so many poses that can stretch and strengthen infraspinatus. in yoga tune up, the open sesame will contract the muscle if you overuse( over stretch) the muscle for a long time. and if infraspinatus is tight, the eagle arm will be a good exercise, too.