Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,
The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get Relief,
How People Describe This Pain Pattern
People complain about pain just inside of the shoulder blade, and in the thumb, and index finger. It doesn’t always create pain in the hand; sometimes it is tingling like it is “falling asleep” or “going numb.” Sometimes, they have pain or tingling when reaching out with the hands near shoulder level, like when you’re driving or cutting hair.
The pattern almost never occurs completely, as illustrated. But this pain along the shoulder blade and in the hand are most common. As the illustration indicates, the pain, tingling and “numbing” is most likely to occur in the areas of darkest red. When there are stiff, swollen hands, the sensations around the index finger and thumb are a greater focus, although the tension behind the shoulder is often there. If I press into this muscle at the base of the neck, the client almost always describes the sensation between the shoulder blades and down the arm.
These trigger points also create pain in the front of the chest and may produce shooting pains through the chest.
If you have chest pains, see your doctor first before looking at releasing these trigger points to relieve the symptoms.
How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern
The most common cases that I see for this involve people that sit with their shoulders forward so that it is difficult to breathe with their diaphragm. The scalenes go from being assistive breathing muscles to being the primary respiratory muscles as they lift the upper ribs and collarbone to inhale. They get overworked, displace the upper ribs, and create chronic trigger point activity.
When they identify an activity, it usually involves an activity where they are seated with the hands up in front of them. This might be when they are driving with the arms at 10 & 2, or working while slumped forward, or rowing, or activity that created heavy breathing.
Another common report is that their arms go to sleep when they sleep on their back. Tight scalene muscles choke the neurovascular bundle that runs to your arms.
These muscles also get involved in assisting with heavy breathing as when sprinting or climbing stairs. People with this problem complain of tingling in their hands while huffing and puffing. This can also be a sign of thoracic outlet syndrome.
The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain
Getting Relief on Your Own
This post has strategies for getting relief on your own. Explore how to change your activities, stretch, and other strategies that relieve the pain associated with this trigger point.
Treatment Notes for Massage and Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise.
This post has techniques, tips, treatment routines, and anatomy illustrations to improve the bodyworker’s approach.
This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began improving the format. We are also adding more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We appreciate your input and feedback. You will see us adding posts and updating older posts as time permits.
Weekly Featured Post
This patient had recovered from a frozen shoulder but developed shoulder pain at the end of his golf swing. More traditional neuromuscular techniques weren’t working. Chiropractic wasn’t working. Integrative Craniosacral was the right solution for lasting relief.
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.
*This site is undergoing major 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 inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.