Home » Pain in the upper back, index finger and thumb

Pain in the upper back, index finger and thumb

Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,

The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get Relief,
and more…


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 as when driving, or cutting hair.

The pattern does not usually occur in full, as illustrated, but as part of that pattern. 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 usually there. If I press into this muscle at the base of the neck, the client almost always describes 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 the lift the upper ribs and collarbone to inhale. The 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 arm in from of them as when they are driving with the arms at 10 & 2, working while slumped forward, rowing or activity that created heavy breathing.

Another common report is that their arms go to sleep when they sleep on their back. The scalene muscles choke the neurovascular bundle that runs to your arms.

These muscles 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

This pain pattern comes from the scalene muscles which assist in stabilizing the neck, moving the head side to side and breathing. you can read more about the anatomy in this post.

This is usually a part of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. There is a better explaination of the related structures and a short video in this post.




Getting Relief on Your Own

Clinically Proven
Self-Care Recommendations.

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 Therapists

Better 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 changing the format of the posts to include 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

Is the pain from
degenerative discs or
trigger points in the muscle?

This post discusses the differences in pain from disc problems and pain from trigger points. Who should you see to help with your pain?


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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(404) 226-1363
integrativeworks@gmail.com

*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make it easier to read, more accessible, and
to include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there will be inconsistency in formatting, content, and readability until we get the old posts updated. Please excuse our mess.