Subclavius Muscle Muscle Pain
The subclavius muscle is found just under the collarbone. Though it is small it contributes to pain in a wide-ranging area. Pain is felt in the area around the collarbone (clavicle), shoulder, upper arm, forearm, thumb, and fingers. It can also contribute to tingling and numbness in the arm and hand.
Where Is The Subclavius Muscle Located?
The subclavius is a muscle that lies just below the collarbone. It connects the collarbone (clavicle) to the first rib.
What Movements Does The It Control?
- Stabilizes the collarbone
- Raises the first rib to aid with breathing
If you need specific anatomical information, the Subclavius Anatomy page has origin, insertion, innervation, and blood supply information. It also lists agonists and antagonists for each muscle action.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Subclavius Muscle Trigger Points?
Trigger points in the subclavius muscle not only contribute to pain around the muscle but also refers pain into the arm and hand.
- Pain below and around the collarbone
- Pain in the upper arm
- Sends pain down the forearm into the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger
- A reliable indicator of subclavius muscle dysfunction is pain on the outside of the upper arm that skips over the elbow then extends into the forearm. Pain can also extend to the thumb, index, and middle finger while skipping over the wrist.
- The muscle can tighten restricting circulation to the arm and hand causing tingling and numbness
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.
What Causes Trigger Points To Develop In The Subclavius?
- Broken collarbone (clavicle)
- Working with your arms out in front of you (computer, driving)
- Lifting heavy objects with your arms straight in front of your body
- Keeping your shoulders raised (we often do this when we are stressed)
- Carrying a heavy briefcase or purse
- Sleeping on your side with your arm above your head
This woman is clearly annoyed. Notice how her shoulders are raised. When you are under stress you will often keep your shoulders slightly elevated which stress the subclavius muscle and contributes to trigger point development.
How To Avoid Subclavius Pain and the Development of Trigger Points
- Pay attention to your stress levels. When you are stressed or excited make a conscious effort to keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
- If you work at a desk make sure that you're not reaching up with your arms to work on your desktop. Your desktop should be elbow height or slightly lower.
- When driving don't make a habit of gripping the steering wheel at the top. Keep your hands in a neutral position and your seat close enough to the steering wheel so you don't have to over reach to grip it.
- When lifting keep your elbows bent and close to the body.
- If you sleep on your side keep your shoulders in a neutral position not raised with your arm over your head.
The subclavius and other muscles of the neck and shoulder can become sore and painful when you carry a satchel briefcase or purse, carry a backpack slung over one shoulder, or use a shoulder bag. Carrying even moderately heavy bags regularly not only stresses neck, shoulder, and upper back, it also throws the body off balance which can lead to pain and stiffness in the low back, hips, and knees. To help keep muscles and joints healthy and pain-free consider a wheeled briefcase for business or a backpack with wheels for school activities. A crossbody messenger bag is another option that will distribute some of the bag's weight across the body instead of pulling your arm and shoulder down. And for the ladies? How about a stylish crossbody purse?
Subclavius Muscle Trigger Point Treatment
If you are experiencing pain around the collarbone, have pain in the in the front of the arm and the palm and fingers of the hand you should check the subclavius muscle for trigger points. There are many massage therapists, physical therapist, and chiropractors with the specific training to show you how to find and self-treat the trigger point. Not all are trained in trigger point therapy so be sure to ask before making an appointment.
If you would like to learn how to treat trigger points The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is an excellent resource to learn how to treat trigger points and reduce muscle pain throughout the body. I recommend this book to all my clients.
To help reduce pain you can use a pain-relieving cream. Sombra Warming Gel is a pain relieving gel that I use both personally and professionally in my massage therapy practice. Unlike other over the counter heating creams, it provides therapeutic warmth without burning heat. Applying Sombra around the collarbone (clavicle), over the shoulder, up the side and back of the neck can help reduce tension and pain caused by the subclavius muscle. If you are experiencing arm pain rub the gel down the arm to help ease the pain. I recommend using Sombra for old injuries and chronic pain, not for recent injury or sudden onset pain.
For injuries and swelling I recommend is Biofreeze Professional Gel because it cools the area somewhat like ice. If you have broken or dislocated your collarbone this is your best choice as it will not promote swelling and is excellent for pain reduction. It is the cream/gel I recommend for all soft tissue issues that are inflamed and have swelling.
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.
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)
How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?
Most people notice a reduction of pain and symptoms after a few treatments. Trigger points respond best to several 1-2 minute treatments throughout the day. For the best results be consistent with your treatments and continue treatment until the trigger point is deactivated (can no longer be felt).
Interesting facts about the subclavius muscle:
- The subclavius helps to protect the nerve bundle and circulatory bundles which go to the arm when the collarbone is broken. The collarbone is the most frequently broken long bone in the human body. If the collarbone has ever been broken or dislocated, problems often arise in the subclavius muscle.
- Dysfunctional symptoms of the subclavius muscle mimic the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome.
Subclavius muscle pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Brachial Plexus Entrapment
- C5 or C6 radiculopathy
- Adhesive Capsulitis
- Frozen Shoulder
- Rotator Cuff Injury
- Dislocated or fractured collarbone
- Separated shoulder
Other Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns You Should Consider:
Twelve years of experience working with clients with chronic pain, post injury pain, and post surgery pain. Muscle dysfunction is often overlooked but can hold the key to many pain conditions.