What is the Teres Minor?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 08 May 2019
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The teres minor is a muscle located in the rotator cuff that is part of the shoulder. Its primary purpose is to help rotate the shoulder joint externally and it does this in conjunction with the infraspinatus — another of the four rotator cuff muscles. Rotator cuff injuries can be caused either by sudden movements or through chronic tears which occur because of repeated strain.

The origin of the teres minor is on the dorsal exterior of the scapula. The fibers run laterally and in an upward direction before becoming a tendon. This tendon inserts at the humerus. The innervation of the muscle is via the axillary nerve. In some rare situations the teres minor may be partly joined to the infraspinatus.

The main action of the teres minor muscle is to rotate the shoulder externally. This happens through a lateral rotation of the humerus head. Aside from rotation, the muscle is also used to hold the humerus head in the correct position with regards to the scapula. The muscle also helps to adduct the arm along with other muscles.

There are two teres muscles — the major and minor. The teres major performs similar actions to the minor although it helps internal rotation and is only active when the scapula is fixed. Other rotator cuff muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus and sucscapularis.


Rotator cuff injuries are relatively common and can be caused by a number of reasons. For example, any sports that involve repeated rotation of the shoulder may place more strain on the rotator cuff muscles. Acute tears happen when a sudden and powerful movement by the athlete causes a tearing of one of the muscles. This is usually immediately obvious as it can be a painful injury.

Chronic rotator cuff injuries occur over a much longer period of time and often affect the tendon more than the muscle itself. If the tendon starts to rub against the bone then this can cause inflammation. This is sometimes known as impingement syndrome and commonly affects people over the age of 40.

Treatment for a rotator cuff injury depends on the severity of the problem and how it was caused. If the injury was caused by a sudden movement then rest and ice will help to reduce the swelling. Chronic injuries follow similar treatment principles, although an injection may be required to control the inflammation and reduce pain. Surgery may be required for either type in some situations.


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Post 5

I have been body building on and off for 28 years. I am 48 now and I have a teres minor strain in my right shoulder. Hurts to do bench press overhead press or even bicep curls. My question is: what caused this? Is it because my teres minor was too weak?

Also, if I need to strengthen the teres minor, what should I stretch to help with healing?

Post 4

I injured my rotator cuff slowly over time by pitching a baseball too forcefully. I have a small frame, and I felt pressure to measure up to the distance the other pitchers could throw. I exerted way too much force for my teres minor to handle, and I did it repetitively.

My shoulder hurt so much near the end of the season that I had to leave the team. I hated to do it, but I simply could not continue to damage myself.

My doctor injected an anti-inflammatory into the muscle, and he told me to rest it. I also had to apply an ice pack whenever the pain increased.

Post 3

I went to a therapeutic massage clinic to seek relief for my teres minor pain. I suspected that my recent kayaking trip had something to do with my pain.

The massage therapist told me that the teres minor allows you to twist your arm away from your torso, and it also allows you to bring your arm down toward the torso. If you stretch and contract it too much, you can experience pain in the back of your upper arm and in your lower shoulder.

Those movements sounded just like what I had to do to row my kayak. I rowed off and on for about two hours, so my teres minor was very sore. The therapist massaged certain trigger points, and I felt better, though I knew that only time could completely heal the soreness.

Post 2

I use my teres minor during my warmups for my aerobic workout. Part of my stretching routine includes holding my arms out to my sides and rotating them in a circle. I then reverse the direction and rotate them the other way.

I kind of feel like my shoulder is a handle winding up an internal wheel. The motion is really rather smooth, and though I sometimes feel a slight grinding or popping while moving it in a circular motion, this is normal.

Overall, the teres minor allows for some impressively fluid shoulder motions. It rotates the humerus head flawlessly.

Post 1

My dad tore his rotator cuff, and he said it was the most pain he has ever experienced in his 72 years of life. The muscles were damaged, and even part of the bone was shattered.

He was playing outside with our two large dogs. It had rained the night before, so the ground was muddy. One of the dogs grabbed his pants leg and yanked, and he slipped in the mud and fell on his elbow, dislocating his shoulder.

He said he heard it pop. He had to have surgery to repair the area and remove the broken pieces of bone. He wore a cast for weeks. Also, he had to have twelve weeks of physical therapy.

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