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Irritating Tags, Burning Shoulders

Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,

The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get relief,
and more…

How People Describe This Pain Pattern

People complain about the tension between the shoulder blades. There are a lot of things that create tension here, so I press on for more specific information. It is not likely that they came in for a massage because their tags are bothering them, So I ask about the tags when they complain of shoulder tension. They will admit that tags in their shirts bother them. If it is really aggravated, they will complain about the burning.

This trigger point was an interesting part of my work with special needs children in the mid-90s. I was writing a book on trigger points and working with children with a sensory processing disorder. This was the first trigger point that I associated with sensory processing disorder. After this, I found trigger points associated with their common issues like sensitivity to seams in their socks, pervasive fight-or-flight, low muscle tone, hypertonicity, etc. Learning to create lasting relief from these trigger points through cranial work allowed me to make big differences in their ability to regulate.

How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern

Lifting the shoulders up and back in a shrugging motion tightens this muscle.  I work near Emory University. Every day, I see students in coffee shops who sit for hours in this posture. As they lean on their elbows while working on their laptops, they create chronic tightness in the shoulder girdle. Held for hours, it tightens the muscle fibers of the middle trapezius and serratus anterior. As they walk away, their shoulders are high and tight, like they are still sitting there.

A lot of things shift to support these high, tight shoulders. In many cases, people don’t have irritating tags and burning shoulders, except when the shoulder is dropped or pulled. For me, it gets activated when I’ve jerk dumbells or haul blocks to build something in the yard. Clients are more likely to complain about dogs or suitcases that pull on their arms.

This trigger point also feeds irritation to the sympathetic ganglion. Ok, in layman’s terms, that means it makes you feel anxious and irritable. They may unconsciously lean to take the tension off this irritating trigger point. It is a common problem among special needs kids who have sensory processing disorder.


The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain

Musculoskeletal Anatomy

About these Illustrations…

The trapezius is complex. It is sometimes called the “coat hanger” of the pectoral girdle. You can read more about it in this post on anatomy of the trapezius muscle.

Getting Relief on Your Own

Clinically Proven
Self-Care Strategies

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.

Therapy Notes for Massage and Bodywork

Better Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise

This post has techniques, tips, treatment routines, and anatomy illustrations to improve the bodyworker’s approach.

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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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