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Serratus Posterior Superior Muscle: Breathing Difficulty

(Last Updated On: August 10, 2018)

Pain under the shoulder blade, pain in the elbow point and pain in the wrist extending down into the little finger can indicate serratus posterior superior muscle dysfunction.

What pain and symptoms are associated with the serratus posterior superior?

  • Deep aching under the shoulder blade
  • Pain in the low point of the elbow
  • Pain in the wrist and hand extending into the little finger
  • Pain persists even at rest
  • Pain is occasionally felt in the chest muscles

Where is the serratus posterior superior muscle?

The serratus posterior superior muscle connects the bottom neck vertebrae (C7)  and the top upper back vertebrae (T1, T2, T3) to the 2nd – 5th ribs.

What movements does the serratus posterior superior muscle control?

  • Forced inspiration (breathing in sharply as when gasping or breathing hard)
  • Raises the 2nd -5th ribs to assists inhalation

Activities that cause serratus posterior superior pain and symptoms:

  • Labored breathing (asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia)
  • Gasping for air during sports activities
  • Extreme coughing or coughing "fits"
  • Hyperventilation
  • Lifting heavy objects with arms straight to the front of the body
  • Rounded Shoulder Posture

Interesting facts about the serratus posterior superior:

Aching pain in the little finger is often a sign of trigger points in the serratus posterior superior muscle.



Serratus Posterior Superior Origin, Insertion, Action, Innervation

The serratus posterior superior muscle lifts the upper ribs so you can inhale.

Clinical diagnoses to which the serratus posterior superior muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Epicondylitis
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Deltoid tendonitis
  • Post injection soreness of the deltoid,
  • Shoulder pointer
  • Glenohumeral dislocation
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Emphysema
  • Pleurisy
  • Scoliosis
  • Spondylitis
  • C7 C8 T1 T2 T3 radiculopathy

Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the serratus posterior superior:

Satellite trigger points associated with the serratus posterior superior muscle:

  • Trapezius
  • Splenius
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Scalenes
  • Rhomboid Major
  • Rhomboid Minor
  • Iliocostalis
  • Longissimus Thoracis
  • Multifidus

For detailed anatomy information:  Serratus Posterior Superior Anatomy

Help with Serratus Posterior Superior Muscle Pain and Symptoms

Cold Gel Therapy for Serratus Injury, Pain and Breathing Difficulty

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is a cold therapy gel that provides pain relieve for new injuries and is works well as a maintenance pain treatment for those who have chronic breathing problems. Cold therapy should be used on instead of heat on new injuries to help reduce inflammation. Rub Biofreeze across the upper back and chest if you are having rib, chest, upper back or arm pain because of coughing or labored breathing.

Warm Therapy Gel for Serratus Muscle Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that I use both personally and in my massage therapy practice. Unlike other over the counter heating creams, it provides warmth without burning heat.  Applying Sombra to the upper back, chest and arm area can help relax muscle spasms caused by the serratus posterior superior muscle. I recommend Sombra for chronic pain and chronically sore tight muscles.

Breathing Correctly Can Help With Serratus Posterior Superior Muscle Pain

Improper or irregular breathing is one of the contributors to serratus posterior superior muscle dysfunction.  Learn To Breathe is a DVD by internationally renowned yoga instructor Max Strom that walks you through several breathing exercises that will help you improve your quality of breathing. The exercises are especially beneficial for people who suffer from breathing problems such as asthma,  emphysema,  COPD, and allergies.  I often recommend this DVD to friends and clients who have breathing problems. Yoga experience is not necessary.

Self Treatment of Serratus Posterior Superior Pain

Do you know that small knots and other dysfunction in the serratus posterior superior muscle can contribute to pain in the upper back in the shoulder blade area? It can also contribute to pain in the arm that extends down to the hand and little finger.

Tightness and injury to the serratus muscles can cause a multitude of symptoms. If you are suffering from pain just under the shoulder blade, aching in the point of the elbow, pain, and numbness in the arm going down into the ring and little fingers,  then your pain is likely trigger points in one of the serratus muscles including the serratus posterior superior muscle. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief will help you locate and treat these trigger points, relax the muscle, and relieve and eliminate your symptoms.  Not only will this book help with your serratus muscle pain, but it will also help with other muscle pain that you may be experiencing.

Easily Treat Hard  To Reach Areas Of The Body

The Theracane Massager is a self-treatment massage tool for use on those hard to reach areas on the neck, shoulders, back, hips and legs. If you are considering buying the book The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, you should consider the Theracane to use the treatment methods for the hard to reach muscles detailed in the book.

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