Infraspinatus Muscle: Shoulder, Neck, Shoulder, Arm Pain, Rotator Cuff

Infraspinatus Muscle: Trigger Point Pain

The infraspinatus muscle is one of four rotator cuff muscles located in the shoulder. It is considered to be one of the most problematic muscles in the body. It is used in many movements of the arm and is one of the muscles that hold the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) in the socket of the shoulder joint.

The muscle can cause and contribute to pain in the outside of the shoulder and arm that can descend down to the hand. Pain may also occur around the inside edge of the shoulder blade (scapula). It can also refer pain up into the back of the neck at the base of the skull.

One indicator of problems with the infraspinatus is stiffness in the shoulder and finding it difficult to move the arm. You will also find that your shoulder and arm tire easily.

Contents Of Article:

Muscle Location

Trigger Point Symptoms 

Trigger Points Cause

Trigger Point Prevention

Trigger Point Treatment

Interesting Facts 

Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

Infraspinatus Referred Pain Pattern

Where is the infraspinatus muscle?

The infraspinatus muscle covers the back of the shoulder blade (scapula)  and attaches the shoulder blade to the upper arm (head of the humerus).

What movements does it control?

  • Twists the arm away from the body
  • Lifts the arm
  • Assists in stabilizing the shoulder joint

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


Infraspinatus Muscle Trigger Points Symptoms:

Though the muscle is located in the back the most common pain symptom is a deep aching in the front of the shoulder. The shoulder is stiff and you experience limited movement in the arm. Pain is often felt around the inside edge of the shoulder blade.

Referred pain traveling down the outside of the arm that may continue down into the hand is often experienced.

The symptoms:

  • Pain deep in the front of the shoulder
  • Pain going down the front and outside of the arm, sometimes going down into the hand
  • Pain going up the back of the neck to the base of the skull
  • Pain in the upper back at the inside edge of the shoulder blade
  • Weakness and stiffness in the shoulder and arm
  • Difficulty reaching the arm behind the body and reaching into a back hip pocket
  • Pain when raising the arm to brush your hair
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.

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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)

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 infraspinatus plays an integral role in lifting and holding the arms up and out away from the body. Any activities that involve this can be problematic and cause pain.

Sports that require constant twisting and rotation motions of the arm often cause trigger points to develop and if not treated will limit if not stop time spent playing and competing.

Some examples:

  • Keeping the arms overhead for extended periods of time
    • Painting overhead
  • Keeping the arms extended in front of the body for extended periods of time
    • Driving with hands on top of the steering wheel
    • Keyboarding and using the mouse on the computer
  • Sports
    • Swimmers
    • Sports throwing a ball or swinging at a ball
      • Tennis
      • Baseball
      • Football
      • Basketball
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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.

How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Infraspinatus Muscle

  • If you play sports don’t overdo and practice/play past your fitness level. Warm-up your body and take breaks to rest and stretch out the upper body.
  • If you are doing an overhead activity that requires you to keep your arms up and out such as painting a ceiling, can you use a step ladder or other tools to give your shoulders and arms a break? It may be more time consuming but it could save you from pain. At the very least take breaks and rest your arms and shoulders.
  • If you work at a desk, be sure your chair has arms and supports your arms while you work. This not only reduces pain and stiffness in your shoulders but also your neck and back.

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!

Infraspinatus Trigger Point Treatment

You can easily learn to treat TrPs in the infraspinatus using The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook as a guide.  The workbook explains trigger points with diagrams of where the trigger points are located in the muscle and methods of treatment. An excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn about muscle pain and how to treat it.

Since the muscle is located in an area that is not easily reached you will need a tool for treatment.

If balance and coordination are not a problem I recommend these massage balls . You place the ball between a wall and the back of the shoulder to apply pressure and massage. This works great for the infraspinatus.

If balance or mobility is a problem you can also use the TheraCane massage tool. The cane can be used while sitting or standing and is easy for most people to use.

Another option is to find a chiropractor, massage therapist, or a physical therapist who is trained in trigger point therapy and can show you how to self-treat.

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 infraspinatus 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?

Infraspinatus trigger points are easily treated and respond quickly to TrP treatment.  Most people will notice a difference in just a few treatments.

It is important to do several 1-2 minute treatments throughout the day for the best results. If you notice the muscle becoming sore reduce the number of treatments and the pressure used during treatment.

Be consistent with your treatment plan and continue until the trigger point is deactivated and no longer produces pain or other symptoms.

The Thera Cane is the other tool recommended by the TrP Workbook. This tool is easy for most people to use. You do not have to contort your body or have a lot of hand strength. You can easily reach most areas of the body including the teres major muscle.

Interesting Facts

  • The infraspinatus is one of the most problematic muscles in the human body. It along with three other muscles that make up the rotator cuff muscles are responsible not only for shoulder movements but also for holding the shoulder joint together.
  • Trigger points in the infraspinatus can render the shoulder almost immobile. It is painful to raise the arm, bring the arm across in front of the body or bend the arm back behind the body. The inability to do these movements is often diagnosed as frozen shoulder.

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

  • Adhesive capsulitis
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Rotator cuff tear
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis
  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Subdeltoid bursitis
  • Bicipital tendinitis
  • Dislocation of the glenohumeral joint
  • Cervical arthritis or spurs
  • Supraspinatus tendinitis
  • Shoulder pointer
  • Shoulder Sprain / Strain injury

Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

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If you are an athlete who participates in sports or has a job that stresses the shoulder muscles you should consider having a cold therapy wrap on hand for treatments when you feel soreness or pain. This will help decrease inflammation in the muscles and around the shoulder joint and may prevent overuse injury or other damage to your shoulder.

Satellite trigger points associated with the infraspinatus muscle:

If you have trigger points in the infraspinatus you have likely developed satellite trigger points in other muscles. TrPs in these muscles may also cause the development of satellite trigger points in the infraspinatus. Check all these muscles for complete treatment.

  • Anterior deltoid
  • Supraspinatus
  • Biceps brachii
  • Teres minor
  • Teres major
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Subscapularis
  • Pectoralis major

Other muscles that have similar pain patterns:

Supraspinatus Muscle

Scalene Muscles

Subclavius Muscle


Relax The Back

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