Women complain of fibrocystic nodules in the breast tissue and tenderness. Men and women both complain of a hypersensitive nipple. The illustration shows a solid area but the reports are about sensitivity or nodules that are more localized within that area.
This trigger point is aggravated by persistent or abrupt motions that stretch the arm back/up. It can be onset by a dog jerking on the lease from behind you. Onset can occur during lat pull-downs in the gym when the shoulder blades are not squeezed together at the end of the movement. This can be part of a sensory processing issue that creates a strong preference for certain fabrics and detergents for shirts. At times, a soft undershirt is the only way to tolerate the touch of a broadcloth dress shirt.
I was surprised at how effective treatment of the trigger points was for reducing sensitivity and nodules, especially in women with rounded shoulders with short, strong pecs. I initially used myofascial release and gave stretching to farm women in a small rural practice. There was no direct work on breast tissue. Once their sensitivity was changed, they referred many friends.
People with nodules, tenderness, and nipple sensitivity should still follow-up with a medical doctor for breast cancer screening, regardless of the effectiveness of these self-care recommendations.
The classic doorway stretch works well. Position the arms so that the elbows are above the shoulder to target the lateral border of the pecs. This stretch should pull down along the side of the breast toward the abdomen (see the section of muscle that we are targeting below). Consistency in this exercise is important. Stop in a doorway several times a day.
Ice-n-stretch will release this more quickly and with less pain. Ice along the border of the pec all the way the edge of the muscle on the rib cage.
This breathing exercise opens the rib cage and relaxes the pecs as well.
If the border of the pec does not release with regular stretching, get the help from a therapist to release the joints and target the trouble spots.
Trigger points usually occur near the margin between the costal and abdominal divisions. It is easy to offer symptomatic relief with myofascial release or joint work without getting into sensitive breast tissue. Long-term relief is only achieved by balancing the shoulder girdle.
These trigger points usually become chronic in one of two in two distinct postures:
The first is when there are rounded shoulders and a closed chest so that the pecs are short and tight. This is more evident and easy for therapists to spot. Pecs are thicker and overpower the back muscles. It occurs on one of my clients who constantly at a conference table with the chest closed during negotiations.
The other posture, which is becoming more common with laptops, is an open posture with shoulders that are elevated up toward the ears and hooked forward. This lateral border is involved in extensions postures as it pulls the shoulders down as chest rolls forward. Leaning on your elbows while working may feel like a good stretch but it makes the problem worse, in the long run. Upper back and shoulder muscles need to be loosened to take the tension off of this band of muscle. I have had this problem myself, and it requires more work on the back muscles to change sensitivity.
Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients.
He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.
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