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Pain in the Torso and Arm: Signs, Pain Patterns, Self-care, Therapy Notes…

This is a collection of posts about trigger points that refer into the torso and arm.

Remember that people often feel a portion of the trigger point referral patter, not all of it. Sometimes, it is not just the dark red areas. You can read more about that in this post. Also, some people don’t really think about the other parts of the pattern until they see the illustration. Because of that, look for information about the impaired activities and other characteristics of the pattern.

Forward-Head Posture and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome often contribute to patterns that refer into the torso and arm. This creates a strong overlap in these collections. They, however, are not the same and need to be considered individually.

Some of these patterns come out of structural problems other than Forward-Head Posture or Thoracic Outlet. For instance, latissimus dorsi has a focus of pain in the mid-back that often radiates down the arm. Pectoralis minor also creates pain in the shoulder that extends down the inside of the arm with a focus in the forearm.

In the same vein, some tasks activate trigger points in the torso and different trigger points in the arm. Setting fence posts with at tamping bar can activate separate patterns. Brachioradialis, which works the forearm motion, creates a pattern down the forearm and into the base of the thumb. Serratus anterior, which presses the shoulder blade forward and down, creates a nagging pain between the shoulder blades. These same referral areas could be created by scalene muscles, which are not likely to be activated by this motion. The guy in this picture will activate some low back trigger points as well.

Not building fences? Similar movements are hauling trash bags, kneading dough, or moving lots of wet handfuls of laundry. My point is that patterns that create pain in the torso and arm can come from separate trigger points or a single trigger point. Do a little extra checking or see your trigger point specialist.

By the way, if you have pain in your chest that radiates into your left arm, see a doctor before considering bodywork.

These posts include:

  • Trigger point patterns and how people describe the pain
  • How you activate and intensify the pain pattern
  • Self-care to show you how to get quick relief on your own
  • Stretches and exercises that provide longer-lasting relief
  • Brief anatomy review of the involved muscle
  • Yoga poses that open this muscle
  • Treatment notes for therapists

Note that we are in the process of converting these posts into a more informative and accessible format. Thank you for your patience.

This website is being revised, and some posts have not yet been converted to newer images and formats.

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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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*This site is undergoing significant changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistencies in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.