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Subscapularis Muscle Pain: What Causes Pain in Your Rotator Cuff

Ever experienced that nagging shoulder pain that just won’t let up? You’re not alone! Shoulder pain, especially from the subscapularis muscle, can be a real bother. But fear not, we’re here to unravel the mystery behind this discomfort. Understanding the science behind why your subscapularis muscle might be acting up, what sets it off, and how a bit of chiropractic care can be your ticket to a happier, shoulder pain-free life.

Anatomy of the shoulder complex

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The Subscapularis Muscle: Overview

The subscapularis muscle is a key component of your shoulder, responsible for the internal rotation of your arm, where your palm faces backward behind your body. It’s the largest muscle within the rotator cuff, a group of muscles linking your upper arm to your shoulder, facilitating arm movement and rotation. This muscle connects from your shoulder blade to your upper arm bone or humerus.

Like other muscles in the rotator cuff, such as the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor, the subscapularis can suffer tears due to various reasons like overuse, trauma, or age-related conditions. Tear sizes can vary, necessitating different treatment approaches based on severity.

How Do You Know if Your Subscapularis Muscle Needs Attention

Early detection is crucial when it comes to the health of your subscapularis muscle. If you experience deep shoulder pain, weakness while rotating your arm, or discomfort when reaching behind your back, it could indicate that your subscapularis muscle needs attention.

Symptoms and Causes

Subscapularis muscle pain can stem from various causes, including overuse, trauma, or age-related conditions. Repetitive overhead arm movements, like throwing or reaching, can strain the muscles, while aging contributes to the natural loss of tendon elasticity and strength, increasing vulnerability to injury and tendinopathy.

Symptoms of a subscapularis tear may manifest as pain in the front of the shoulder and clicking or popping sensations during arm movement. Trigger points within the subscapularis muscle can cause specific symptoms like limited arm elevation, difficulty reaching across the body, and a distinct band of pain around the wrist. Subscapularis tendonitis, another condition, presents with shoulder pain, especially during arm movements above shoulder level.

Frequent among throwers, subscapularis injuries may exhibit tenderness and pain when pressure is applied to the tendon insertion on the inside of the upper arm. An overworked subscapularis muscle can result in challenges lifting the arm and may contribute to conditions like a frozen shoulder. Timely detection and appropriate treatment play a crucial role in effectively managing subscapularis muscle issues.

Golfer in discomfort, holding shoulder while playing golf.

Subscapularis Muscle Pain Treatment

Prevention of subscapularis muscle pain involves maintaining proper shoulder mechanics, engaging in regular shoulder-strengthening exercises, and avoiding overuse or incorrect technique during activities. By incorporating these preventive measures, individuals can reduce the risk of developing subscapularis muscle pain issues.

Treatments for subscapularis muscle pain are focused on reducing pain, facilitating boosting the body’s function to heal, and restoring shoulder function. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the condition and may include:

1. Rest and activity modification: Avoid activities that worsen symptoms and allow the tendon time to heal  such as heavy lifting, repetitive overhead motions, and strenuous exercises. However, complete rest is rarely recommended. 

Doing specific activities or exercises in a careful way helps make your shoulder muscles stronger and more resilient. This allows you to get back to your usual activities without experiencing pain, as the exercises gradually strengthen the affected tendon without causing harm.

2. Physical therapy: Targeted exercises to strengthen the subscapularis muscle, enhance shoulder stability, and address any muscle imbalances.

3. Pain management: Various techniques may be employed to alleviate pain, such as medication, corticosteroid injections, or other modalities recommended by healthcare providers.

4. Surgical intervention: In severe cases where conservative measures fail to yield improvement and significant damage is evident on imaging, surgical repair of the subscapularis tendon may be considered. However, this is relatively rare and reserved for cases with persistent symptoms.

5. Chiropractic Care: Chiropractors offer alternative treatments for subscapularis muscle pain using Myofascial Release techniques. 

There are many different techniques categorized under Myofascial Release, such as Active Release Technique (ART), Fascial Distortion Model (FDM), and Trigger Point Therapy. These techniques aim to reduce restrictions in tissues which limit motion and cause pain. By applying gentle pressure to release tightness in the muscles and tissues around your shoulder, chiropractors can help reduce pain and improve mobility.

Can a Chiropractor Help with Subscapularis Muscle Pain?

Chiropractors specialize in diagnosing and treating structural misalignments not only in the spine but also in joints like the shoulder. Through chiropractic care, individuals can experience relief from pain in areas such as the shoulders, back, and neck without going under the knife.

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Chiropractic Care for Shoulder Pain

A key technique used in chiropractic care is a chiropractic adjustment, also known as spinal manipulation. During this procedure, chiropractors utilize their hands or a small instrument to apply a precise and controlled force to a spinal joint. The objective is to improve spinal motion and optimize the body’s physical function.

One of the distinguishing aspects of chiropractic care for shoulder pain is its focus on identifying and addressing the root cause of pain, rather than merely treating symptoms. By working with the musculoskeletal system, chiropractors aim to restore proper alignment and function, ultimately alleviating discomfort and increasing your whole-body wellness.

Scene in a chiropractor's office: one man clutching his arm in discomfort, chiropractor inspecting the injury.

What Curis Chiropractors Can Do to Help

Understanding subscapularis muscle pain is the first step to managing it. Don’t ignore shoulder discomfort; make sure to consult with a chiropractor to find a treatment plan that is best for you. Early action not only relieves pain but also sets the stage for lasting shoulder health. 

At Curis, our chiropractors specialize in assessing and many issues including the spine and shoulder complex to alleviate discomfort. Our chiropractic care offers a gentle and non-invasive approach to addressing shoulder pain, serving as an alternative to medications and surgeries.

The chiropractic treatment process begins with a comprehensive evaluation, which may include an assessment of your medical history and advanced imaging techniques to identify the underlying cause of your shoulder pain accurately. Once a precise diagnosis is established, our providers will develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs, aiming to facilitate a swift recovery and restore shoulder function effectively. Book an appointment or find a location near you today!

Subscapularis Muscle Pain: What Causes Pain in Your Rotator Cuff


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