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Supinator: Learn Your Muscles

The supinator is not a large forearm muscle, but it’s one of the muscles responsible for twisting motions at the wrist. This movement is essential for anyone opening a bottle of wine, using a screwdriver, or trying to work a doorknob. Here’s more about this useful muscle.

Location

supinator

Thanks to KnowYourBody.net for the image.

The origin of the supinator is in four spots. The technical names for these areas are the lateral epicondyle of the humerus, radial collateral ligament of the elbow, annular ligament of the radius, and the supinator crest of the ulna. Basically, that translates as the lower, outside part of the humerus; a nearby elbow ligament; a ligament near the radius; and a line on the shaft of the ulna.

The insertion for the supinator is in a line on the top third of the radius.  This line is along the outside edge but still on the top of the bone. To use technical lingo, it’s on a line on the lateral anterior surface of the upper third of the radius.

Function

As you might guess, the supinator supinates the forearm. This means that it turns your palm to face the ceiling. Although your supinator works whether your arm is bent or straight, I think it’s best to stabilize your bent elbow by your side and rotate to ensure that  your rotation comes from the elbow and not from the shoulder.

Commonly, the supinator is used when you use a screwdriver or turn a door handle.

Common Dysfunction

For some people, the supinator may be a cause of tennis elbow pain. Also, if you notice that you can rotate one palm toward the ceiling very well but not the other, that would be a sign of supinator weakness or dysfunction.

Restoring or Maintaining Health

If you feel like you may have injured your supinator, contact your doctor. He or she can order the appropriate imaging, medicine, and therapy necessary for a smooth recovery.

For anyone who is wanting to maintain the strength and flexibility of this muscle, I have some suggestions. To strengthen your supinator, practice Mountain pose with your arms by your sides, Boat pose, and Locust pose. Take the time to really find the rotation from your elbows. Again, make sure that you’re not cheating and rotating at your shoulders.

A great way to stretch the supinator is to practice yoga poses such as Sphinx pose and Dolphin pose. Because these poses involve pressing your palms into the mat, the supinator gets a good stretch.

More Information

Again, thanks to KnowYourBody.net for the wonderful image.

I consulted The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey. Recently, the book was revised and is in its third edition. I love this book as a quick go-to guide for easy to understand anatomy.

For those who are more interested in technical terminology and smaller muscles, I recommend Flash Anatomy Muscles Flash Cards. Any time a client comes to me with pain, I use these flash cards.

What’s your favorite way to strengthen or stretch your supinator? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.

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