Infraspinatus Trigger Points and Referred Pain

Before you learn about infraspinatus trigger points you may want to read more basic information about the infraspinatus muscle.

The infraspinatus, and important part of the shoulder rotator cuff, is particularly sensitive to trauma and wear and tear from overuse, especially among tennis players, overhead throwing athletes, skiers, swimmers, and anyone who must use excessive overarm movements. Overuse of the infraspinatus leading to infraspinatus tendinitis will usually cause the muscle to be inhibited, which will greatly affect glenohumeral stability, which will lead to further deficiencies in shoulder function.

Infraspinatus Trigger Points Referred Pain and Symptoms and Causes

Due to its importance in shoulder movement, there are many common activities that can lead to trigger points in the infraspinatus and it is one of the most frequently injured or overloaded muscles in the body. This is especially true for overhead throwing athletes. In addition to sports activities, anything that requires your hands to be over your head for long periods, reaching back repeatedly, driving with hands on top of the wheel, typing on a computer without elbow support, etc. can cause overload to the muscle.

Body Back Buddy Self Massage Tool - Back, Neck, Shoulder, Leg & Feet Trigger Point Therapy & Deep Tissue Massager by Body Back Company (Full-sized Blue)
The Body Back Buddy Massager can be used to treat trigger points of the infraspinatus and associated muscles.

When trigger points of the infraspinatus occur, there may also be trigger points in the supraspinatus and perhaps the levator scapulae.

Infraspinatus trigger points occur on the upper part of the muscle, just under the scapular spine, which is the bony ridge at the top of the shoulder blade, easily palpated. Trigger points may also occur along the inner scapular border.

The trigger points below the scapular spine refer pain to the front of the shoulder, felt as a deep ache in the joint. This pain may spread down the biceps muscle and even down the forearm and into the wrist and hand, affecting the entire thumb. Due to the pain felt where the biceps attaches at the shoulder, this pain may be mistaken for biceps tendinitis. Pain may sometimes be felt in the back of the neck on the same side as the trigger points occur. Trigger points along the inner scapular border may refer pain between the shoulder blades on the same side. See the trigger point image below.

infraspinatus muscle trigger points
Infraspinatus Trigger Points and Referred Pain Patterns

Reaching behind, such as to retrieve your wallet, fasten a bra, or zip a dress, can be very painful due to infraspinatus trigger points. Lying on the affected side at night can cause more pain, and sometimes lying on the back can be difficult.

Infraspinatus Trigger Point Release

Trigger points in the infraspinatus are easily massaged with a Thera CaneBody Back Buddy, tennis ball or massage ball against the wall. To use a tennis ball, follow a similar procedure as given for rhomboid trigger points. If you have symptoms, especially pain in the front of the shoulder, find the trigger points by pressing on the areas given here, until you feel a tenderness. You may not at first feel anything but it won’t hurt to give your infraspinatus a massage and the tenderness may come later. Use gentle strokes a first and limit the treatment to five or six strokes, but repeat several times during the day.

If your pain symptoms do not subside, are too complicated, do not hesitate to consult a professional. For more information, you may want to buy the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies. 1 Simons, David G., Janet G. Travell, Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. “Chp. 8: Masseter Muscle.” Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. 329. Print.,2 Davies, Clair. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-treatment Guide for Pain Relief. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2004. Print.,3Floyd, R. T., and Clem W. Thompson. Manual of Structural Kinesiology. Dubuque, IA: WCB/McGraw-Hill, 1998.

Sources   [ + ]

1. Simons, David G., Janet G. Travell, Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. “Chp. 8: Masseter Muscle.” Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. 329. Print.
2.  Davies, Clair. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-treatment Guide for Pain Relief. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2004. Print.
3. Floyd, R. T., and Clem W. Thompson. Manual of Structural Kinesiology. Dubuque, IA: WCB/McGraw-Hill, 1998.