Supraspinatus Muscle: Definition, Function & Innervation

Instructor: Joshua Bowles

Joshua is a Sports Medicine and Athletic Training Instructor and has a Master's degree in Kinesiology.

In this lesson we will discuss the supraspinatus muscle. We will cover the location, definition, function and innervation of this important muscle in the shoulder.

What is the Supraspinatus?

When you were a child, did you ever stick your arms straight out and pretend you were an airplane, or maybe a bird flying around? Or how about now as you have gotten older and wanting to pull something down from high up on a shelf? Or to put those clean dishes into the upper cabinet?

You could perform those motions thanks to the supraspinatus. Although a muscle you may not have given much thought too, in this lesson we will look at this muscle in greater detail so you can have a better understand of how this arm mover works.

Location

The supraspinatus muscle is one of four muscles in a group of muscles in the shoulder region known as the rotator cuff. These keep the top of your upper arm bone secured inside the socket of the shoulder.

The first part of the name, 'supra-' comes from the term 'superior', meaning above or on top. '-Spinatus' comes from the root word 'spine,' which is a skeletal structure that means a small and slender projection.

Your shoulder blade (scapula) has a small projection on it called the spine of scapula. The supraspinatus muscle sits directly on top of this structure.

In comparison to other muscles of the shoulder, the supraspinatus is not particularly large. The area on top of the spine of scapula is rather small. The muscle fits in that groove and spans from the upper area closest to the mid-line of the body, called the medial portion of the scapula, down to the upper arm bone, known as the humerus, where it attaches.

Highlighted supraspinatus muscle as viewed from the back
Supraspinatus muscle

Function

You are able to reach up because the supraspinatus moved your arm to that position. The primary function of the supraspinatus is the movement of the arm reaching out to the side away from your body and up above your head, known as abduction.

Innervation

Every muscle in the human body is innervated, which simply means that a body part, in this case a muscle, is supplied with a single nerve or a series of nerves that provide the signaling from the brain to create movement and sensation.

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