Supraspinatus Relief: Stretching and Release Techniques

By Kian
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The supraspinatus muscle is a small but important muscle located in your shoulder. When this muscle becomes tight, it can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, whether you spend long hours at an office desk or play sports that put a lot of strain on your shoulders.

Fortunately, effective techniques can be used to release tension in the supraspinatus muscle, which can help relieve shoulder pain caused by tightness. This post will explore how to lengthen your supraspinatus using stretch and release techniques to improve your shoulders’ health.

I. What is the Supraspinatus?

The supraspinatus muscle is one of the four rotator cuff muscles responsible for stabilizing and providing mobility to the shoulder joint. Located in the upper back region, the supraspinatus connects the scapula (shoulder blade) to the humerus (upper arm bone).

This muscle is crucial for lifting, arm abduction and rotating your arm and plays a significant role in overall shoulder health. When the supraspinatus is tight or strained, it can lead to discomfort, limited mobility, and even shoulder impingement [1].

The most common cause of tightness in the supraspinatus is overuse, especially from repeated overhead movements or activities that require lifting and rotating the arm. Additionally, a lack of regular stretching can contribute to stiffness and reduced mobility in this muscle.

II. How to Locate the Supraspinatus

Locating your supraspinatus muscle can be tricky, but with some guidance, it’s doable. Here’s how you can find it:

  1. Stand or sit up straight, and relax your shoulders.
  2. Place one hand on the opposite shoulder, with your fingers resting on the upper part of your back.
  3. Gently press your fingers into the fleshy area just above the spine of the scapula (the bony ridge on the shoulder blade).
  4. Move your arm up and down to feel the muscle contracting beneath your fingers. You should be able to feel the supraspinatus muscle contracting and relaxing.

III. Supraspinatus Release Techniques

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Stretching the supraspinatus muscle can be challenging, so stretching alone may not be enough to relieve your discomfort. This is why myofascial release is crucial in maintaining supraspinatus health, as it can help release chronic tension and trigger points that stretching can’t. You may find that release techniques may be more beneficial for you than stretching.

A. Supraspinatus ball release

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To perform this release technique, you will need a massage ball. A softer ball may be more appropriate if you are particularly tender in this area.

  • Stand with your back against a wall, holding a massage ball or tennis ball.
  • Place the ball between the wall and the supraspinatus muscle you located earlier.
  • Apply gentle pressure on the ball by leaning back into the wall.
  • Slowly move your body up and down, allowing the ball to roll across the muscle.
  • As you work on the muscle, move your arm on the same side as the supraspinatus to target different areas and release tension more effectively.
  • Spend extra time on any tight or tender spots you find, taking deep breaths as you release the tension.

B. Supraspinatus massage stick release

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A back massage stick, such as the Thera Cane, can be a helpful tool in releasing the tension in your supraspinatus muscle. This tool allows you to apply pressure and massage the muscle in hard-to-reach areas.

  • Hold a back massage stick with both hands, one hand on each end.
  • Reach the stick behind your back, positioning the massage knob or roller on the supraspinatus muscle.
  • Apply gentle pressure and slowly roll the stick across the muscle, targeting any tight or tender areas.
  • Focus on relaxing your shoulders and breathing deeply as you work on releasing the muscle tension.

IV. Stretching the Supraspinatus

This section covers two of the most effective stretches for the supraspinatus.

A. Supraspinatus behind the back stretch

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  • Stand or sit with good posture.
  • Reach the stretching arm behind your back, bend it to 90 degrees.
  • Use the other arm to grab the bent arm’s wrist.
  • Pull the bent arm towards the opposite hip to stretch the supraspinatus.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, breathe deeply.
  • Release and repeat on the other side.

B. Supraspinatus towel stretch

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This variation of the stretch is performed with a towel instead, making it an excellent alternative for those with limited shoulder mobility:

  • Roll up a towel to a 2-inch diameter.
  • Hold one end behind your back with the stretching arm, elbow bent.
  • Reach behind your head with the other arm, grasp the other end of the towel.
  • Pull the towel up with the top arm while pushing down with the bottom arm.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, feeling the stretch in the supraspinatus.
  • Switch arm positions and repeat on the other side.

Final Words

You can effectively reduce discomfort and improve your shoulder health by learning about the supraspinatus muscle and incorporating targeted stretches and release techniques into your daily routine. However, if you continue to experience pain or discomfort, it may be worth seeking medical advice or consulting with a physical therapist to ensure you properly address the issue.

Additionally, incorporating exercises for shoulder impingement may also be helpful in reducing discomfort and improving overall shoulder mobility. Remember to always listen to your body and avoid pushing through any pain during these stretches or exercises.

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