Shoulder Pain Trigger Points

Updated: Jan 15


The shoulder joint is unique among the body's joints in that it relies heavily upon the muscle groups in the region to actually hold the joint together. This lack of major bone and ligament support allows for the greatest freedom of arm movement. But it also requires the muscles to function properly for the joint to work effectively and stay healthy. As such, perhaps no joint in the body is affected as much by trigger points as the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.​ Of all the muscle groups that act on the shoulder joint, the rotator cuff muscles are the most important.


The rotator cuff muscle group is composed of the following muscles:

The Infraspinatus

The Supraspinatus

The Subscapularis

The Teres Minor These are small muscles that are easily overloaded by sporting and repetitive activities. Trigger points can cause chronic tension in these muscles, making them more likely to suffer tears.​ Trigger points in any of the muscles that attach to the shoulder blade can also play a significant role in shoulder dysfunction disorders. It is very important to address these trigger points, as they distort the proper movement of the shoulder blade during movements of the arm. Shoulder pain is a complex disorder that can involve more than ten muscle groups. Clinical experience has shown that the following three muscle groups are involved most often:​ The Infraspinatus, Subscapularis, Trapezius.


The Infraspinatus Trigger Points that Cause Shoulder Pain The Infraspinatus muscle is found on the back of the shoulder blade and is one of the Rotator Cuff muscles. It attaches to the lower part of the shoulder blade and runs laterally to attach to the top of the upper arm bone (the humerus). Contraction of this muscle rotates the arm in the shoulder joint and stabilizes the shoulder joint during other movements. Trigger points in this muscle produce pain in the shoulder joint that radiates down the front and side of the arm. Clients with active Infraspinatus trigger points are unable to reach behind their back, and have difficulty combing their hair or brushing their teeth.

Infraspinatus Trigger Point Symptoms Clients with active infraspinatus trigger points will present with pain that is felt deep within the shoulder joint. The deep nature of the pain convinces many clients that they have damage in the joint itself. The pain will often extend down the front of the upper arm, and in athletes it can mimic bicipital tendonitis. In severe cases the pain may extend all the way down the arm to the hand, and up the back of the neck.​ If the clients is a side-sleeper, they won't be able to lay on the affected shoulder. Sleeping on the opposite shoulder may also produce pain if the upper arm isn't supported by a pillow.​

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