Teres Minor Muscle: Trigger Point Pain

The teres minor muscle is located in the back of the shoulder. Trigger points (TrPs) in the muscle will cause pain in a specific area in the back of the shoulder where the muscle connects to the upper arm. You may also experience tingling in the ring and little fingers. If you have pain in the back of the shoulder along with tingling and/or numbness without pain there are likely trigger points in the teres minor. If you have pain in the back of the shoulder with pain in the fingers you should examine the latissimus dorsi.

Contents Of Article:

Teres Minor Referred Pain Pattern

Where is the teres minor muscle?

The teres minor attaches near the bottom of the shoulder blade (scapula) and connects to the upper arm (humerus).

What movements does it control?

  • Twists the arm away from the body (lateral rotation)
  • Assists in moving the raised arm in toward the body (adduction)
  • Assists in stabilizing the shoulder joint


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

The Teres Minor Muscle

 

Teres Minor Muscle Trigger Points Symptoms:

Teres minor trigger point pain is in a very specific area in the back of the shoulder. The pain is located toward the outside of the shoulder where the muscle attaches to the upper arm bone (humerus).

The muscle will occasionally cause tingling and/or numbing in the ring and little fingers. These sensations do not involve the arm nor is pain involved. If you have pain in the back of the shoulder with pain going down the arm and into the fingers you should examine the pectoralis minor, pectoralis major, and the latissimus dorsi.

The symptoms:

  • Pain toward the outside of the back of the upper shoulder
  • Numbness or tingling without pain or aches in the fourth and fifth fingers (not shown)
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)

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 teres minor muscle is adversely affected by holding the arms overhead, holding the arms out in front of the body, and twisting motions of the arm. Baseball pitchers and football quarterbacks often experience problems due to the throwing motion. Rowers and kayakers have problems due to the force of rowing through the water.

Swinging a sledgehammer, using an ax to chop wood, and other heavy tools that require a repetitive swinging motion will cause TrPs to develop.

Other activities that will contribute to trigger points are jobs and activities that require lifting and holding the arms overhead like you do when painting a ceiling. Desk work, assembly line work and other activities in which you are holding your arms up and in front of the body is also problematic for the teres minor and other shoulder muscles.

Some examples:

  • Bringing the arm back with force
    • Pitching a baseball
    • Rowing, Kayaking
    • Swinging a sledgehammer
  • Holding arms above head for extended periods
  • Holding arms out in front of the body for extended periods of time
  • Bracing your arms either in front of the body to avoid a fall or overhead impact (something falling from above)
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TWD Recommends:

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!

How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points

  • If you play sports that stress the shoulder muscles do a proper upper body warm-up before playing. If your muscles start to fatigue take a break or stop. If you play and practice on a regular basis consider getting a cold wrap for treatment after you are finished.
  • If you have a job or do other activities that require holding the arms up for long stretches of time take frequent breaks and do some upper body stretches to relieve the stress on the muscles. Stop and think if there are tools such as a ladder or long handle tools that may help you work with lowered arms.
  • Instead of carrying a heavy briefcase use a rolling briefcase. The same goes for suitcases while traveling.
  • If you are doing overhead projects will a ladder put you closer to your work? Are there other tools you can use so you don't need to keep your arms lifted as much?
  • Working at a desk, on an assembly line or other activities that require working with your arms out in front of the body is hard on all the shoulder and upper back muscles. If you work at a desk get a chair that will support your arms while you work. For other work and other activities take breaks and stretch when possible. If you can, keep your elbows tucked into the body while you work it will relieve some of the wear and tear on your shoulders, elbows, and arms.

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.

TWD Recommends: Relief Factor

Teres Minor Trigger Point Treatment

The teres minor muscle is easy to treat once you know the technique. If you are interested in learning how to treat trigger points The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is an excellent resource to learn the treatment methods. The book has diagrams that show the location of the trigger point as well as diagrams that show you the treatment method. It takes time and practice to learn but once you learn you will be able to identify and treat trigger points throughout the body.

Another option is to find a massage therapist, physical therapist or a chiropractor with specific training in trigger point therapy that can find and show you how to treat specific TrPs.

Because the teres minor muscle cannot be reached you will need a tool to self-treat. If balance and mobility are not a problem you can use massage balls between your shoulder and a wall to apply pressure and massage the muscle.

If mobility or balance is a problem then you can use the TheraCane massage tool. The cane allows you to easily reach and treat the muscle. You can use the cane standing or while sitting.

TWD Recommends:

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 teres minor you will need a hardball for treatment. The Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls are a good choice to use on the thighs and other areas throughout the body.

How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

Trigger points in the teres minor resolve fairly quickly. Most notice a reduction in pain after just 1-3 treatments. However, it is important to stay with treating the muscle until the TrPs are deactivated and no longer produce pain or symptoms.

Consistency is important when treating TrPs. Teres minor trigger points generally respond best to two or three treatments of 1-2 minutes per treatment spread throughout the day.

Note:  If you are treating the teres major and feel your pain is not reducing you will need to check the other rotator cuff muscles, the supraspinatus, infraspinatus and the subscapularis. These along with the deltoid and the teres major can produce pain similar to that of the teres minor.

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 supraspinatus muscle.

Interesting Facts

  • The teres minor sometimes fuses with the infraspinatus muscle.

Teres minor 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
  • Subdeltoid bursitis
  • Dislocation of  glenohumeral joint
  • Shoulder pointer
  • Post  injection soreness

Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

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Satellite trigger points associated with the teres minor muscle:

Satellite trigger points are TrPs that develop in other muscles due to the stress caused by trigger points in the teres minor.  To ensure complete treatment check and treat the following muscles:

  • Deltoid
  • Teres Major
  • Infraspinatus

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