Supraspinatus Pain And Trigger Points


The supraspinatus muscle is one of the most common troubleshooters when it comes to shoulder pain. It is a member of the rotator cuff group. People that often stress this muscle a lot are painters, rock climbers, piano and violin players. To cut it short, people that have to work with elevated arms for prolonged periods of time.



Of course other people may overload this muscle to. So if you have pain in your shoulder, make sure to check it.

Content

Pain Zone

Attachment Points

Function

Overuse

Impaired Movements

Palpation

Self-Massage

Pain Zone


If your supraspinatus contains trigger points, you might feel pain right at these spots. But you also might feel an ache in more distant, seemingly unrelated areas of your body.


The most common area of pain which comes along with trigger points in this muscle is the side of your shoulder. Besides that, pain can radiate down the whole side of your arm – especially to your elbow –.


This way it can contribute to the following aches. Click on the corresponding link to learn how to get yourself out of pain.


The intensity of the red colour in the pictures below indicates how common it is to feel pain in the marked spots. The darker the red, the likelier it is to experience an ache in the respective area when your supraspinatus contains trigger points.



Attachment Points


The muscle attaches planar on the shoulder blade just above your spine of scapula. From there it connects to the tuberculum majus at your humerus – the outer side of your upper arm –. The Xs in the picture below display common areas where tender and trigger points in this muscle can develop.



Function


Its best known function is the abduction of your arm. Furthermore it helps to keep your shoulder stabilized when moving it.



Abduction


Supraspinatus Overuse and Trigger Point Development


I want to give you an example of how this muscle stabilizes your shoulder. When you carry a shopping bag, its weight is pulling on your shoulder. Here, it prevents your upper arm from sliding downwards too much. Thus while carrying a bag it is very active and acts as a counterforce of the bag. This scenario of course, applies every time objects are pulling on your arm.


Now please imagine how much it has to work in order to stabilize your shoulders if you are doing deadlifts for example or pull anything heavy off the ground. Another common scenario would be your dog at a leash or your child pulling on your arm and thus stressing this muscle. Here again, the muscle prevents your shoulder from pulling apart.


Impaired or painful Movements


Stress this muscle too much and it may give you pain while doing some of the following movements. Please remember that those are just examples and do not display a complete list. In general, you may have problems with all movements that require lifting your arm at and above shoulder level. In more dramatic cases it may be even difficult to elevate your arm at all.

Here are some common movements and activities where you have to lift your arm.


  • Painting high a wall or a ceiling
  • Combing your hair
  • Playing the violin - Arm that holds the bow -
  • Tennis serve


Supraspinatus Palpation


Locating and feeling your supraspinatus is pretty easy. Just put your fingers slightly above your spine of scapula. Try not to go too high as you will then reach the middle part of your trapezius. You want to put your fingers between your trapezius and your spine of scapula.


Now slowly start to raise your arm to the side. While doing this movement you should feel it thickening under your fingers. If you cannot feel it right away, do not stress. Just repeat the slow raising of your arm a couple of times while searching for the right spot.



Supraspinatus Self Massage

I recommend massing this muscle with a cane. This is the easiest way to access it and to exert pressure. You also can use a tennis ball but it is a little bit more difficult and not that convenient for massage, still effective and doable.


I do not recommend massaging this muscle with your fingers of the opposite hand. Yes, you can reach the muscle very good and you also can apply pressure BUT you have to exert all the force from your fingers, your arm and your shoulder. 

It is possible that you do something good to one of your shoulders while stressing too much the just mentioned parts.


Massage with a Cane: Place the cane on the muscle. Apply pressure through pulling on the cane – with your left hand if you are massaging your right side –. Search for tender spots and massage them with repeated strokes.

Massage with tennis ball: You are facing the wall sideways. Put the ball on your shoulder and press it against a wall. Now roll the ball over your shoulder till you find your supraspinatus. Massage it with little repeated strokes.


Note: Massaging this muscle will always result in a simultaneous massage of your trapezius as this muscle lies above your supraspinatus. But this is nothing to worry about and does you no harm.



References


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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