Infraspinatus Pain- Causes and Treatment

What is Infraspinatus Pain?

The infraspinatus is one of the four muscles present in the rotator cuff that help the shoulder move and stay stable.

It is present in the back of the shoulder and attaches the top of the humerus to the shoulder. It plays the role of rotating the arm to the side.

Pain in the infraspinatus occurs after repetitive motion of the arms and is found occurring mostly in swimmers, tennis players, painters, and carpenters. It also becomes more likely as a person grows older.

Causes of Infraspinatus Pain

Pain in the infraspinatus muscle occurs due to minor strains or wear and tear. It can also occur due to injuries and other serious conditions.

Infraspinatus Tear

Infraspinatus tear occurs due to 2 reasons:

  1. A partial tear in which there is damage to the tendon which occurs due to repetitive stress or normal aging.
  2. A complete tear occurs in the full thickness of the infraspinatus muscle. It can occur after an acute injury such as a fall.

The symptoms of infraspinatus tear are:

  • Pain even on resting
  • Weakness in the arm
  • Pain at night
  • Cracking sensation on moving the arm
  • Pain on lifting and lowering the arm
  • Severe and sudden pain in case of an acute tear

Infraspinatus Tendinopathy

Infraspinatus tendinopathy is a less severe type of injury to the infraspinatus muscle and is of two types:

  1. Tendonitis, inflammation of the tendon
  2. Tendonosis, small tear in the tendon

It occurs due to trauma or the overuse of the muscle. It can also occur due to arthritis or normal wear and tear as a person ages.

The symptoms of infraspinatus tendinopathy are:

  • Shoulder weakness
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Loss of motion of the shoulder
  • Loss of motion of the shoulder
  • Pain in arm at night
  • Pain while reaching overhead

Infraspinatus Impingement

Impingement occurs when tendons get compressed by bone spur. It is uncommon in athletes under age 30.

The symptoms of Infraspinatus pain due to infraspinatus impingement are:

  • Pain in arm
  • Pain gets worse over time
  • Pain in the whole shoulder


  • Bursa is a fluid-filled sac between the top of the arm and the tip of the shoulder. Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa. This causes pain and restricted movement of the infraspinatus muscle.
  • It can occur due to arthritis, gout, thyroid disease, diabetes, tendonitis, and acute injury.
  • The symptoms include shoulder swelling and pain in moving the shoulder.

Pinched Nerve

When the suprascapular nerve in the shoulder gets pinched it causes pinched nerve. It is caused due to trauma, overuse injuries or shoulder dysfunction.

The patient experiences pain at the back and top of the shoulder. There is a weakness in the shoulder and the atrophy of the infraspinatus muscles. The pain, in this case, does not respond to the normal treatments.

Treatment of Infraspinatus Pain

In most of the cases, the doctors go ahead with the nonsurgical treatment to provide the patient relief from the infraspinatus pain.

If these treatments are not effective, the surgical option is suggested for infraspinatus pain.


Resting the shoulder often gives time to the injuries to heal. Avoiding activities and resting the arm can prove to be of help.

Heat and Ice

Icing reduces inflammation. It can be done after exercise or stretch or after the injury.

Heat relaxes infraspinatus. Heat can be applied before stretching and exercising. Applying a heating pad or taking a warm shower can help.


It is an exercise that can help stretch the muscle and space they pass through and helps prevent a frozen shoulder.

How to do it:

  • Lean forward and take the support of the non-affected arm.
  • Swing the affected arm forward and backward and then side to side.
  • After this, move it in small circles
  • Repeat 2 sets of 10 each

External Rotation

This exercise helps in strengthening and stretching the infraspinatus. As the condition heals more weights can be added to improve the strength.

How to do it:

  • Lie on a side and rest the head on the arm.
  • Bend the other arm to 90 degrees, in a way the elbow is in the air, hand on the ground and arm is running across the stomach.
  • Slowly rotate the arm keeping the elbow at your side.
  • Slowly rotate the arm back down.
  • Repeats the 2 sets 10 times.

Steroid Injections

Steroid injection or anti-inflammatory steroids are injected into the infraspinatus bursa.

These provide temporary relief.


  • If other treatments fail or in case of severe injuries, surgery is recommended.
  • Infraspinatus pain can be a sign of a serious underlying condition. Most of the patients get relief from rest, stretching and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • If your daily activities involve a lot of repetitive arm motion and you are experiencing pain and weakness in the shoulder, talk to your doctor. He can be the best person to find the most suitable treatment option.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 28, 2020

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