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Massage Aha!

Professional therapeutic massage therapy in Kansas City, MO by Aaron Harris, BCTMB

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The Supraspinatus Muscle

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The Supraspinatus Muscle is located on the superior (upper) portion of the scapula. It is one of the four muscles that makes up the “rotator cuff.”

Wide view of the location of the Supraspinatus Muscle
The location of the Supraspinatus Muscle which lies on the superior surface of the scapula.
The Supraspinatus Muscle
A closer view of the Supraspinatus Muscle which lies on the superior surface of the scapula.

“Supra” means “above;” “spinatus” means “spine.” The name, “Supraspinatus” tells us that this muscle is located above the spine of the scapula.

The Spine of the Scapula
Posterior view of the right scapula. Note the spine that runs horizontally along the upper third of the bone.

What Does the Supraspinatus Muscle Do?

Along with the lateral deltoid, this muscle abducts (moves away) the upper arm at the glenohumeral (GH) joint (the shoulder).

This muscle is commonly used in upper body training and exercises such as:

  • Shoulder presses
  • Cable raises
  • Jumping jacks
  • Swimming
  • Racquet sports, such as tennis and badminton
  • Volleyball

Trigger Points

There are three common trigger points in this relatively small, but important muscle. Two occur in the medial (closer to the center of the body) belly of supraspinatus that refer pain down the upper arm all the way to the elbow.

Supraspinatus Muscle Trigger Points
Trigger point locations in Supraspinatus (marked by X) and the referral pain locations (marked in blue).

The third trigger point is at the distal (farther from the center of the body) end, just past the point the muscle passes under the clavicle. This point refers pain into the point of the shoulder.

Massage of Supraspinatus

The Supraspinatus Muscle lies deep to the superficial trapezius. Deep tissue techniques are often used to reach this muscle. It takes some time to sink past the trapezius to address trigger points here.

As with all of the rotator cuff muscles, it is often hard for clients to pinpoint exactly where their pain is located. The pain is often described as a “deep ache” that is more noticeable when raising the arm.

There are some great Thai massage techniques that activate and stretch supraspinatus. There are also “pin and stretch” maneuvers that can be done as Active Release Techniques.

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