Understanding Trigger Points – Burning and itching along the shoulder blade

Client’s Description


People complain of burning along the inside of their shoulder blade. This makes you want to rub up against a doorway or get one of those massage canes to get at it. It is my experience that people are quick to notify a body therapist (like me) to rub on it when it is bothering them.

People are unaware of how this started, except that it often bothers them after they have been working at a desk, driving or working on a low counter.  The person, who shall remain nameless, gets this from texting in bed. All of these activities make this section of muscle work hard to stabilize the scapula as it is pulled forward. This is usually a chronic problem and the person has slumped shoulders with tight pecs.

This often starts with a different trapezius problem that creates a sore neck and shoulder. I explore that pattern in this post. When it is relieved, this pattern often reveals itself.


Self Care

middle lat stretchTo get relief, you’ll want to rub your shoulder on a doorway. There’s a more effective way to use that doorway. Look at the picture of lower trapezius below. For some relief, rub ice along the edge that runs from the inside of the shoulder blade down to the base of the ribs. Ice the area along the top, inside edge of the shoulder-blade well. You’ll probably need help. Then stretch the arm forward, like reaching to the back of a tall shelf. Use a door frame to get a grip for a better stretch. Stretch overhead as well, like you are reaching for the ceiling above your other shoulder.

This is a tougher one to figure out on your own and the pain is really aggravating. Your body worker can figure this out with trigger point assessment and offer you longer lasting relief by balancing the pelvis as well as muscles of the chest and back.

Therapy Notes

oit-trapezius-posterior-lower oit-trapezius-anterior-lower

oit-trapezius-posterior oit-trapezius-anterior

This lower section of the trapezius is most active in retracting and stabilizing that superior angle of the scapula. When this is active, there is usually a stiff band of muscle running along the border of the lower trapezius. This strip is sensitive and the band relaxes with a little swipe of ice or hot stone. After that, you’ll need to work the lower trapezius, especially near the tendon attachment at the root of the scapula.

referral-trapezius-lower-t7-croppedThis pattern may present as the primary pattern but cannot be resolved if the pattern shown on the right is also present. Both need to be addressed at the same time for lasting relief.

This muscle is also overpowered by pecs and can stay aggravated when pecs are overdeveloped. Because it is a stabilizer, more than a prime mover, forward-head posture and tight pecs have to be addressed.

Similar Patterns

Click on these categories to see if there is a referral pattern that better describes your concerns.

tags-shoulder-blade tags-upper-back


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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