Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,
The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get Relief,
How People Describe This Pain Pattern
People complain of pain along the inside of their shoulder-blade when reaching high above the head. They also get pain while reaching to the back seat of the car or adjusting clothing behind the back. Often, they have usually adapted their movements to avoid taking that arm too far back. To avoid the pain, they will insert that arm first into a coat. They will avoid having to tuck in their shirt by putting the pants on over the shirt. They will fasten the bra in front, turn it around, and then carefully insert the painful arm under the strap first.
These same movements, which involve the infraspinatus muscle, may produce shoulder pain as described in this post. Those patterns of shoulder pain are more likely to bother people when sleeping on the shoulder than reaching overhead.
The tests to see if this muscle is the problem, involve those movements. The first one involves placing the forearm across the low back. The second one involves reaching around the back of your head to place your palm on your opposite ear. Restriction and pain in either of those activities indicate a problem. A few other muscles, especially coracobrachialis, may create pain and restriction in these movements. In that case, the pain pattern will be different.
Testing to Assess the Trigger Point
These tests will produce pain and restricted motion when the trigger points in the infraspinatus are active.
The first test involves placing the forearm across the low back. It usually produces pain in the shoulder. Pain worsens as you reach up the middle of the back. Notably, this may also indicate trigger points in the coracobrachialis with a different pain pattern.
In the second test, reach around the back of your head like the pic. When the trigger points are active, it is restricted and painful. Also, you cannot contact the edge of your mouth without pain and stiffness.
How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern
You can activate this pain pattern in several ways.
This trigger point usually involves a severe or sudden jerk of the shoulder. A dog that jerks on the leash is a common irritant, especially when it jerks the arm across the body. In other words, it would be more likely if the dog in this photo was running toward the grass, twisting her shoulder across her chest. People may also overstretch this muscle when they fall forward, landing with the arm in front of them.
Falling back while holding onto a bar also strains this muscle. Again, when the arm crosses the body, it is more likely to activate this trigger point.
A blow to the back of the shoulder can strain the joint, overstretch the tendon and activate this trigger point as well. Research says this might happen when someone is caught off guard while standing on a moving bus or train. One case fell and landed on his shoulder.
Another common cause is that you sleep on that shoulder at night. Although, that is usually associated with this pattern in the shoulder joint.
Once its activated, activities that reach behind the body intensify the condition. Many clients have complained about reaching to the back seat to deal with a child or get a bag out of the floorboard. Reaching back to the end table by the bed, fastening a bra, or tucking in a shirt are also common irritants.
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.