Deltoid Muscle: Trigger Point Pain

The deltoid muscle is the triangle-shaped muscle that covers the tip of the shoulder.

Trigger points (TrPs) in the deltoid will cause pain all around the shoulder and a feeling of weakness in the shoulder and the arm. Deltoid trigger points do not refer pain to other parts of the body. However, the muscle is often affected by satellite trigger points which need to be deactivated.

Pain in the shoulder is often the result of referred pain. Referred pain is pain that occurs in the shoulder as the result of the dysfunction of other muscles. Muscles in the neck, chest, and upper back often send referred pain to the shoulder.

Contents Of Article:

Deltoid Muscle Referred Pain Pattern

Where is the deltoid muscle?

The deltoid muscle is the muscle that covers the tip shoulder. Though it is often referred to as 'the deltoids' it is actually one muscle made up of three sections, the anterior deltoid, the middle deltoid, and the posterior deltoid. It connects the point of the shoulder (acromion), shoulder blade (scapula) and the collarbone (clavicle) to the upper arm (humerus).

What movements does it control?

  • Raises the arm to the front of the body (anterior deltoid)
  • Raises the arm out to the side of the body (anterior deltoid)
  • Twists arm in toward the body
  • Moves arm across the front of the body (anterior deltoid)
  • Brings arm down to the body from overhead position (posterior deltoid)
  • Pulls arm behind the body (posterior deltoid)
  • Twists arm away from the body (posterior deltoid)


Looking for detailed muscle anatomy? The Deltoid Anatomy Page has origin, insertion, innervation, and blood supply information. It also lists agonists and antagonists for each muscle action.

The Deltoid Muscle

 

Deltoid Muscle Trigger Points Symptoms:

TrPs in the muscle cause pain where the trigger point is located and in the immediate area around the TrP. Pain is felt when the arm is moved but there is usually no pain when the arm is at rest and still. If your shoulder aches when you are not moving your arm the pain is likely referred pain of trigger points in another muscle.

The symptoms:

  • Pain over the tip of the shoulder going down the upper arm
  • Shoulder weakness and difficulty raising your arm
  • Pain in the shoulder area when lifting
  • Pain in the shoulder area when holding objects up and in front of the body
  • Pain decreases when arm and shoulder are at rest
Trigger Points Information

Trigger points are small knots found in the muscle that when pressed increase pain in the area or send referred pain to another area of the body. To learn more about trigger points read Muscle Trigger Points and How They Contribute To Muscle and Joint Pain.

TWD Recommends:
Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. (Not sold in stores)

TWD Recommends:

Biofreeze Professional Gel is what I recommend for the pain and symptoms of muscle strains. It provides excellent pain relief and may help reduce inflammation caused by a strain. Recommended by medical professionals and trainers. 

What Causes Trigger Points To Develop?

The deltoid muscle is used in most movements of the shoulder and upper arm. Sports, occupations, and hobbies that require swinging motions of the arm, holding the arms overhead for extended periods of time, holding the elbows out away from the body and constant lifting can overtax the muscle.

Some examples:

  • Swimming
  • Skiing
  • Weight-lifting
  • Throwing a ball; baseball, softball, football
  • Holding heavy tools up
  • Picking up and carrying children
  • Typing when the keyboard is set up too high
  • An injection that is given in the arm
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How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Deltoid Muscle

  • If you are an athlete or just enjoy sports, be aware of your conditioning and don't overdo it. Swimmers, skiers, weight-lifters, and sports that require repetitive throwing of a ball will tax the deltoid muscle. When you start feeling muscle fatigue set in, take a break or stop.
  • Exercises that require swinging, pushing, and pulling with the shoulders and arms can cause problems for the deltoid. Again, be aware of your conditioning and don't overdo it.
  • If your job requires using heavy tools, keeping your arms stretched out in front of the body or overhead take frequent short breaks. Do some simple stretches for the chest and upper back muscles which will also help the deltoid.
  • Typing can be a huge stressor for the deltoid muscle, but it does not have to be! Keep your elbows tucked in close to your body, make sure your arms are supported by the armrest on your chair, and make sure your keyboard is not too high, it should be at elbow height. Consider a standing desk and/or and adjustable office chair to maintain ergonomics. This will help prevent pain not only in the deltoids but also in many other areas of the body.
  • Repeatedly picking up heavy items is hard on the delts and other shoulder and chest muscles. Use tools such as a hand dolly when you can.
  • If you have an injection in the arm wait a few days until the initial soreness has lessened and then check the muscle for trigger points.

TWD Recommends:
Alternating standing and sitting during your workday can help reduce pain in the neck, upper back, shoulders, and the arms. The VariDesk Pro Plus 30 is a highly recommend convert desk that will fit on most desktops.

Doctors and physical therapists often recommend TENS to relax the muscles and ease pain. The Belifu TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator is highly recommended and can be used on most areas of the body.

If you have or are buying a TENS unit, Doctor Jos' book Maximum Pain Relief with Your TENS Unit will help you use your TENS unit to achieve maximum results. Highly recommended!

Deltoid Trigger Point Treatment

The deltoid muscle is easy to treat. You can find someone that is trained in trigger point therapy such as a massage therapist, physical therapist or chiropractor that can show you where your trigger points are located and how to self-treat.

You can also learn how to self-treat the muscle using The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. The workbook is an excellent resource to learn about TrPs, where they are located, and how to treat them. This is a book I reference often and encourage anyone interested in learning about muscle pain and how to treat to buy for themselves.

Note: If you are buying the workbook for self-treatment of the deltoid you will need a small round ball to do the treatment. These massage balls are the right size and hardness for TrP treatment.

The best resource to learn how to treat small painful knots is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. The authors explain trigger points and their effects in everyday language, not medical speak. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning to treat their own muscle pain.

If you are buying the Trigger Point Workbook to self-treat the deltoid you will need a hardball for treatment. The Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls are a good choice to use on many muscles throughout the body.

How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

Deltoid trigger points are easily treated and a reduction in pain is quickly noticed. It is very important to be consistent with your treatment. TrPs respond best to several treatments of 1-2 minutes per trigger point spread throughout the day. It is also important to continue treatment until the TrP is deactivated and no longer felt when palpated and not producing any pain or symptoms.

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Interesting facts:

  • Pain around the shoulder area caused by trigger points in the deltoid muscle will subside when resting. If the pain in the deltoid area is continuous even at rest, chances are the source of the pain is being caused by other muscles in the neck, shoulder, upper back, and/or chest.
  • If you have been diagnosed with bursitis of the shoulder and treatment is not reducing pain it could be trigger points in the deltoid muscle.

Deltoid pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:

  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Bicipital tendinitis
  • Subdeltoid bursitis
  • Glenohumeral joint arthritis
  • Glenohumeral separation
  • Impingement syndrome
  • Shoulder pointer
  • C5 C6  radiculopathy
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Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

Satellite trigger points associated with the deltoid muscle:

Trigger points in the deltoid muscle will cause TrPs to develop in other muscles. These are known as satellite trigger points. Many of these muscles will contribute to the development of TrPs in the deltoids. Checking these muscles should be part of your treatment plan.

  • Pectoralis major
  • Pectoralis minor
  • Biceps brachii
  • Triceps brachii
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Teres major
  • Infraspinatus
  • Supraspinatus

Relax While Easing Your Pain and Stiffness

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You're tired, your lower back and hips are stiff and hurt. All you want to do is lie down and be able to relax.

The Snailax Vibrating Massage Mat With Heat is made for those times. The mat features a full-body vibrating massage and has multiple settings for massage and heat. The remote allows you to adjust settings with a push of a button. A wonderful way to ease aches and pains in the back, hips, and legs at the end of the day! 69 inches (5' 9") long.

More TWD Recommendations for Deltoid Pain

Pro-Ice Shoulder and Elbow Cold Therapy Wrap is great for shoulder injuries and pain involving the deltoids. The wrap not only provides cold therapy for the shoulder but it also extends down the arm providing relief for upper arm and elbow pain. This should be in the freezer of every ballplayer for quick treatment of overuse injuries and preventative maintenance.

Eco Hot Cold Massage Roller is a useful tool to have on hand for a quick massage treatment on your muscles.  It works very well to release trigger points in the deltoids. 

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