The teres major muscle is not as well known as rotator cuff muscles or the deltoid, but it contributes to shoulder pain. The pain produced by the teres major is sharp and is in the back of the shoulder.

An indicator of trigger points in the muscle is pain going down the back of the arm, skipping the elbow, and continuing down the backside of the forearm.

Contents of Article

    Where Is The Teres Major Muscle?

    Teres Major Trigger Points

    The teres major is located in the back of the shoulder. It connects the shoulder blade (scapula) to the upper arm bone (humerus).

    What Movements Does It Control?

    • Twists the arm in toward the body (internal rotation)
    • Brings arm down toward the body when the arm is lifted out and away from the body

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


    Teres Major Muscle Trigger Points Symptoms:

    Teres Major Referred Pain Pattern

    A primary indicator of trigger points in the teres major is feeling a sharp pain in the back of the shoulder when you rest your elbows on a table. You will also experience this pain when you lift your arm up and out in front of the body.

    You may also experience referred pain going down the back of the arm. TrPs in the muscle will send an aching pain down the upper arm, skip the elbow and then continue down into the forearm.

    The symptoms:

    • Sharp pain in the back of the shoulder with aching sensation in the upper arm when resting elbows on a table.
    • Pain in the back of the upper arm when reaching forward and overhead.
    • Pain in the back of the arm that skips the elbow and continues down to the back of the forearm.

    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 recommended by medical professionals and trainers for the pain and symptoms of muscle strains. It provides excellent pain relief and may help reduce inflammation caused by a strain.

    What Causes Teres Major Trigger Points To Develop?

    Teres major pain often affects athletes, bodybuilders, and people who spend hours driving. A job or activities that require repeatedly reaching overhead (painters) or who work with their arms extended out in front of the body (assembly workers, desk workers).

    Some examples:

    • Rowing
    • Throwing or pitching a ball
    • Swimming
    • Chopping wood
    • Driving
    • Exercise and activities that require pulling up with the arms (chin-ups)
    • Repeatedly pushing down or holding something down with your arms supporting your body weight (push-ups)
    • Repeatedly reaching forward or overhead with the arm(s)
    • Overreaching to work on a desk or tabletop

    TWD Recommends

    If you have rounded shoulder, forward head posture, or have a habit of slouching, correcting your posture will reduce your muscle pain. The Truweo Posture Corrector is adjustable and comfortable. It gently pulls your shoulders back which helps retrain muscle memory to maintain proper posture. Many people notice an immediate reduction of pain and tension. Start slowly, wearing the brace for short periods throughout the day slowly increasing the time worn.

    How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Teres Major

    • Athletes, bodybuilders, and those who exercise should stop or take a break when they feel the shoulder and arm muscles become tired. Overdoing will cause trigger points to develop.
    • Take breaks and do upper body stretches if you are doing activities that require holding the arms overhead or out in front of the body.
    • Desk work is a problem for the whole body. If you find yourself holding your arms up and out in front of the body without arm support, TrPs will develop in the upper back, chest, shoulders, and arms. Get a chair that will comfortably support your arms while you work.

    TWD Recommends

    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 and pain. This will help decrease inflammation in the muscles and around the shoulder joint and may prevent overuse injury or other damaging injuries to your shoulder.

    Teres Major Trigger Point Treatment

    The teres major muscle is easy to treat once you understand its location. Chiropractors, massage therapists, and physical therapists trained in TrP therapy can help you find the muscle and show you how to self-treat it.

    You also have the option of learning self-treatment. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook includes diagrams showing the location of TrPs and how to treat them. If you would like to learn how to treat TrP pain throughout the body, this book is highly recommended.

    If you have decent grip strength and can easily reach across the body to the opposite armpit, you can treat the teres major using your thumb and fingers.

    If hand strength or reaching the opposite armpit is problematic you can place a massage ball between the backside of the armpit and a wall to apply pressure and massage the area.

    If you have problems with balance, then the TheraCane Massage Tool is recommended. It does not require flexibility or balance to treat the muscle. You can stand or sit to use the cane to find and treat the TrP.

    TWD Recommends

    Doctors and physical therapists often recommend TENS to relax muscles and ease the pain. The Belifu TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator is highly recommended and a great choice for treating shoulder, arm, and upper back pain.

    How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

    The area around the teres major is sensitive, and you may experience soreness after treatment. However, you will notice a reduction in pain and increased mobility after a few treatments.

    For most people, three short 1-2 minute treatments spread throughout the day have the best results. Over-treating can cause pain and soreness, which can delay improvement.

    What is important is that you continue treatment until the TrPs are deactivated (gone). If you stop too soon, the TrPs will quickly reappear along with the pain and stiffness.

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

    • Supraspinatus tendinitis
    • Thoracic outlet syndrome
    • Adhesive capsulitis
    • Frozen shoulder
    • Subacromial/Subdeltoid bursitis
    • C5 C6 C7 radiculopathy
    • Dislocation of the Glenohumeral joint
    • Post-injection soreness


    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

    Satellite trigger points associated with the teres major muscles:

    Trigger points in the teres major muscle will cause TrPs to develop in other muscles. These are known as satellite trigger points. Many of these muscles will contribute to the development of TrPs in the teres major. As a rule of thumb, if you find TrPs in the teres major, there will likely be TrPs in the latissimus dorsi. Checking all of these muscles should be part of your treatment plan.

    • Triceps Brachii (long head)
    • Latissimus Dorsi
    • Posterior Deltoid
    • Teres Minor
    • Subscapularis

    Muscles with similar pain patterns

    Teres Minor
    Latissimus Dorsi
    Triceps Brachii