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Teres Minor: Learn Your Muscles

The teres minor is one of those enigmatic rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuff can be the root of all evil for some people, so this month is dedicated to learning about this troublesome structure and how to keep it healthy.

There are four muscles in the rotator cuff. They are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. The teres minor, which we will focus on today, works similarly to the infraspinatus to rotate the head of your humerus outward, away from the midline of your body. This is essential for good posture.

Location

teres minor

Thanks to Wikipedia for the image.

The technical origin of the teres minor is on the superior two-thirds of the dorsal surface of the axillary border of the scapula, according to Flash Anatomy Flash Cards. This means that the origin is on the top two-thirds of the outside edge of the back of the scapula.

Teres minor inserts on the posterior aspect (the back) of the greater tubercle of the humerus. The greater tubercle of the humerus is the bony nodule that is further from the midline of your body. This is the same insertion point as the infraspinatus.

Function

Because of this common insertion point, the teres minor and the infraspinatus have a similar principal job–lateral rotation of the humerus at the shoulder. Lateral rotation of the humerus is when the head of the humerus turns outward, away from the midline of the body. This movement is essential for good posture, but be aware that a little bit of lateral rotation goes a long way. Too much rotation will cause an injury.

Another duty of the teres minor is to stabilize the head of the humerus and prevent the upward dislocation of the shoulder joint. Also, the teres minor weakly adducts the humerus. As you may recall, adduction is whenever you move toward your midline.

Common Dysfunction

The teres minor is a little more guarded rotator cuff muscle. You can, however, injure it if you dislocate your shoulder joint. This can be accomplished in any number of ways, but catching yourself during a fall is one way.

Restoring or Maintaining Health

If you believe that you have injured or torn your teres minor, contact your doctor. Your doctor can order the appropriate imaging, therapy, and medicine necessary for your recovery.

However, if you feel like you have a muscle tightness or weakness and want to improve the functionality of this muscle, I have some suggestions.

To strengthen the teres minor, practice Side plank. This is both a Pilates exercise and yoga pose. However, only yoga offers really great options for stretching this muscle. Any time you bring your arms behind your back (like for binds or reverse namaste), you’ll find a stretch for the teres minor. You also get a stretch in your lower arm during Gomukhasana.

More Information

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.

Also, I consulted David Keil’s article on the infraspinatus and teres minor at Yoganatomy.com.

What’s your favorite rotator cuff exercise? 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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