Extensor Digitorum Referred Pain Pattern

Extensor Digitorum Muscle: Trigger Point Pain

The extensor digitorum is a muscle in the back of the forearm. Trigger points in this muscle are a primary cause of stiffness in the second and third fingers. TrPs will also cause pain in the back of the hand, which may extend up the backside of the arm to the top of the elbow. You may also have a spot of pain in the wrist, just above the palm.

Contents of Article


    Extensor Digitorum Muscle

    Where Is The Extensor Digitorum Longus Muscle?

    The extensor digitorum is a long muscle that connects the outside (thumb side) of the elbow, extends down the back of the forearm joining 4 tendons that connect to the middle of the four fingers.

    What Movements Does It Control?

    • Straightens the 3rd, 4th, and 5th  fingers
    • Helps to straighten the wrist

    For detailed anatomy information: Extensor Digitorum Anatomy

    Extensor Digitorum Muscle Trigger Points Symptoms:

    • Pain in the 2nd and 3rd fingers extending into the back of the hand
    • Pain can extend up the back of the forearm toward the elbow
    • Pain is occasionally felt in the front of the wrist just below the palm
    • Weak unreliable grip
    • Finger stiffness
    • Cramping in the fingers
    • Painful finger joints

    TWD Recommends

    Jar grips should be in every kitchen to open jars and bottles to help prevent injury to the arm extensor muscles. So many painful arm, wrist, and hand injuries happen trying to open sealed lids on jars. Great for those with hand and wrist arthritis. Works on door knobs too!

    What Causes Extensor Digitorum Trigger Points To Develop?

    • Typing
    • Playing the piano
    • Repetitive gripping an object (hammer, tennis racket, pen / pencil)
    • Tennis
    • Writer’s Cramp – writing or gripping other small instruments.
    • Knitting and crocheting
    • Twisting motions such as using a screwdriver or twisting a doorknob.

    TWD Recommends

    Whether the pain in your hands is caused by trigger points, a muscle injury or arthritis, compression has been shown to help with pain relief. The Imak Compression Arthritis Gloves are some of the best on the market.

    The gloves provide gentle compression, which helps decrease both pain relief and inflammation. The seams of the gloves are sewn to the outside so you will not have irritation or discomfort. The fingers opening is reinforced so that they will not fray with wear or during washing.

    To determine your size, measure straight across the widest part of your palm. Extra small: up to 2 3/4 inches wide. Small: up to 3 1/8 inches across. Medium: up to 3 1/2 inches across. Large: up to 4 inches across. Extra large: up to 4 1/2 inches across.

    Extensor Digitorum Trigger Point Treatment

    Trigger points in the extensor digitorum are easy to treat. If you would like to learn self-treatment, get The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. The workbook will walk you through finding the muscle and the trigger point. The diagrams and instructions will teach you how to do the appropriate treatment. Best of all, you will have a resource to help you locate and treat TrPs throughout the body.

    If you are going to use the workbook, you will need a massage ball to do the treatment. The Flex Fixx Massage Balls are a set of 3 varying sized balls that can be used on muscles throughout the body.

    You may also find a massage therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor with trigger point therapy training to show you how to find and treat the specific TrP.

    Trigger points respond best to several 1-2 minutes treatments spread throughout the day.

    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. If you have reoccurring muscle cramps or pain, you should keep Somba on hand, it provides almost instant relief. (Not sold in stores)

    Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain-relieving gel recommend for those who have sudden onset muscle pain or recent injuries.  It is better to use than warm therapy gels and creams for muscle pain caused by inflammation as it cools the area much like ice. If your pain is from a recent injury use Biofreeze. It is excellent to use on sprains, strained and sore muscles and joints.

    The CompressionZ Compression Arm Sleeves are for those who want or need more support for muscle injury, muscle recovery or lymphedema. The sleeves work well for those who have chronic elbow, forearm and wrist pain due to repetitive motions that can irritate the extensor muscles in the arm. The sleeves work well for athletes as well as people whose jobs require repetitive twisting motions of the wrist. The sleeves are available in 3 sizes and a variety of colors. Be sure to read the size chart and follow the instructions to ensure proper fit. Two sleeves per package

    How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

    Many people feel some relieve after the first or second treatment. Pain and symptoms tend to diminish more after each treatment.

    Keep in mind, you need to continue treating the trigger point until you do not feel the knot, and the area is not painful when pressure is applied.

    Interesting facts:

    • Pain and stiffness caused by the extensor digitorum muscle in the fingers is often thought to be arthritis
    • Trigger points in the muscle can contributor to tennis elbow

    Extensor digitorum muscle pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:

    • Lateral Epicondylitis
    • Tennis Elbow
    • Ganglion cyst
    • C7 radiculopathy
    • DE Quervain’s stenosing tenosynovitis


    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

    Satellite trigger points associated with the extensor digitorum muscle:

    Trigger points in one muscle will cause TrPs to develop in other muscles. These are known as satellite trigger points. You will need to check these muscles for additional TrPs.

    • Brachioradialis
    • Supinator
    • Extensor carpi radialis longus
    • Extensor carpi ulnaris


    TWD Recommends

    Freeze Sleeve Cold Therapy Compression Sleeve is recommended by medical professionals for treatment of injury and over-use soreness. The sleeve provides total circumference cold therapy and compression that other cold treatments do not provide. The sleeve slides on and features material that can be worn on bare skin, allowing you to be mobile during treatment. It can be used for most areas of the arms and legs.