Serratus Anterior Muscle Pain And Trigger Points


The serratus anterior muscle can give you pain at the side of your chest, beside your shoulder blade or at the inside of your arm.


Pain Zone

Attachment Points



Impaired Movements



Pain Zone

If trigger points are troubling your serratus anterior, you might experience pain mainly at the side of your ribcage and low down at the inner side of your shoulder blade. Furthermore, pain can radiate down the whole inner side of your arm. Also your inner hand and 4th and 5th finger might be painful - not shown in the pictures below -.

The serratus mainly contributes to...

Attachment Points

The serratus anterior runs from the first 9 of your ribs in a planar manner to your shoulder blade. It consists of three parts.

  • upper/superior part
  • middle/intermedius part
  • lower/inferior part

The X1 displays a common area where tender or trigger points develop in this muscle.

Function Of The Serratus Anterior

As a whole, the serratus anterior muscle helps to stabilize the shoulder blade and also works in abduction and rotation

When the shoulder blade is in a fixed position – e.g. breathing after a sprint – the serratus anterior lifts the ribcage and thus supports breathing.

Serratus Anterior Overuse And Trigger Point Development

If you are doing lots of heavy sprinting intervals you can overwork your serratus anterior muscle. Why? When running, your arms are swinging pretty heavy. During the forward swing your serratus is very active to bring your arm forwards and upwards. When you are not used to this or do not give yourself sufficient rest, this may become too much pretty quick.

Also a bad cough can overwork your serratus anterior as you often might breathe very hard during that time.

Impaired Or Painful Movements

These are mostly limited to pain or a stitch during breathing. The reason for this is that your chest expands during breathing which in turn elongates your serratus anterior. If it is too tight or contains trigger points this may be painful. You even may feel short of breath.

Serratus Anterior Muscle Palpation

Your serratus anterior muscle is very thin and covers the side of your rib cage. You can feel it by putting your hand just below the arm pit.

It also helps to experience how your ribs feel, so that you can distinguish the ribs and this thin and superficial muscle.  To do so, just feel the first ribs under your nipple. Now you will be able to distinguish the muscle from the ribs.

Self-Massage Of The Serratus Anterior Muscle

For massage I recommend using a tennis ball. It is easy and highly effective. Put the ball on your serratus anterior and then push it against the wall. Now slowly roll the ball over the muscle and search for tender or trigger points. For navigational issues, use the pain zone picture.

As soon as you encounter a tender or trigger point, stay in its vicinity and massage it with slow and precise strokes.


Calais-German, Blandine. Anatomy of Movement. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993. Print

Davies, Clair, and Davies, Amber. The Trigger Point Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide For Pain Relief. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2004. Print

Simons, David G., Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. Travell & Simons' Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. Print.

Schünke, Michael., Schulte, Erik, and Schumacher, Udo. Prometheus: Lernatlas der Anatomie. Stuttgart/New York: Georg Thieme Verlag, 2007. Print

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