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What Is the Supinator?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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The supinator is a muscle located in the arm that works to help the biceps brachii perform movements such as turning the hand in such a position that the palm is facing upward. This position is known as supination. If the elbow is extended while performing this action, the biceps are not used, leaving only the action of the supinator muscles.

The muscle known as the supinator is a rather broad muscle. It curves around the upper portion of the radius. The radius is the name of the bone located in the forearm. It extends from the elbow to the side of the hand where the thumb is located.

The primary function of the supinator muscle is to supinate the upper arm. This is achieved due to the action of this muscle to rotate the radius. The supinator is the primary muscle involved in the hand and forearm. If the upper arm is in a flexed position or if some form of resistance is required, the supinator is assisted by the biceps brachii.

The biceps brachii are commonly referred to simply as the biceps. There are several functions performed by the biceps, the most significant being the rotation of the forearm and the flexing of the elbow. These muscles work in tandem with the supinator muscles.

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The radial nerve is responsible for the nerve supply in the supinator muscles. Because of this, repetitive movement or damage to the radial nerve can cause pain in this area of the body. One of the most common ailments is Radial Tunnel Syndrome. In Radial Tunnel Syndrome, the radial nerve becomes inflamed or irritated. This is commonly caused by repeated movement of the supinator muscles. This condition is common among athletes who use this muscle group a lot, particularly tennis players. Radial Tunnel Syndrome is often misdiagnosed as tennis elbow.

Athletes are not the only people who develop Radial Tunnel Syndrome. Other occupations are at risk as well. This condition has been reported in musicians, truck drivers, and in those who use a keyboard frequently. This condition can last from a few weeks to a few months. In some cases, the damage becomes permanent.

Pain medication and steroids are generally the preferred treatment for this condition. Doctors often administer cortisone injections in an effort to ease the discomfort. In extreme cases where medical treatment has not been successful, surgery may be a viable option in correcting the damage that has occurred.

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Discuss this Article

nony
Post 3

@Mammmood - Personally I do not favor steroids for this or any other muscle condition. Steroids are effective at reducing the pain for a short period of time, but they have side effects.

The worst is that they end up weakening the muscle fiber tissue. This is not good, because if the muscles are weak then they can tear easily.

In that case damage to the muscles may be permanent, or at the very least you may be prone to having the pain on and off for a long time. If you play tennis, you won’t be able to play like you did before.

Mammmood
Post 2

@miriam98 - I’d say that if it was tennis elbow, you would experience pain in the elbow. I’m not a doctor but that would be my first impression in telling the difference between the two.

In either case I don’t really think it matters. I believe that treatment will be the same. In addition to pain medication, which you probably should keep to a minimum, you may want to try some orthopedic exercises, in addition to ice packs. This should help to relieve the affected area.

miriam98
Post 1

I’d be curious to know how to tell the difference between actual tennis elbow and supinator radial syndrome, given that the two conditions are often misdiagnosed.

My son has been playing tournament level tennis for quite some time now, and he developed what we thought was tennis elbow. This was not a professional diagnosis given to us by a physician, but the result of our own assessment. He had pain in the wrist area, which of course is what is turned when you swing the racket.

We got him a special reflex rotator device which seemed to help, but upon reading this article, it’s quite possible that it was the supinator reflex muscle that was causing the strain.

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