Release Trigger Points in the Supraspinatus

The supraspinatus is located above the spine of the scapula and runs from the shoulder blade to the humerus (see Figure).  It sits below the trapezius muscle (not shown).

The function of the supraspinatus is to lift the arm and hold the shoulder joint together (along with other muscles).  There are typically two trigger points in the supraspinatus: (1.) below the top of the shoulder blade in the belly of the muscle, and (2.) about 1-2 inches away from (1.)  close to where the muscle goes under the bony bump on the top of your shoulder (acromion).

supraspinatus trigger points
Figure: Back view of the supraspinatus of the right shoulder showing two trigger points in yellow.

You stress the supraspinatus and its related joints during activities that pull the joint apart.  Daily activities such as carrying a heavy purse or bag over your shoulder, pulling luggage, walking an overly aggressive dog on a leash, and even just walking with your arms down at your sides when your supraspinatus is already aggravated, can cause discomfort.

Sports such as rowing, tennis over-head serves and baseball/softball pitching, as well as weight-training exercises like shoulder shrugs, deadlifts, sumo-deadlifts, lateral dumbbell presses, and overhead presses are common instigators.

The supraspinatus is one of many shoulder joint muscles. Pain commonly associated with supraspinatus trigger point referral throughout the shoulder complex and can lead to limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. Sometimes it feels like a deep ache to the outer side of the shoulder.  A popping noise heard from the shoulder joint might be because of trigger points in the supraspinatus.  Even tennis elbow might be treatable with this muscle.

This muscle is tricky to treat for two reasons. First, because this muscle lies deep under the trapezius muscle it can be difficult to generate therapeutic pressure, especially if using only your fingers.  Second, supraspinatus trigger points can be confused with the trapezius muscle trigger points, although treating both muscles is not a bad idea (especially if pain persists). If you choose to use your fingers, be careful since the repetitive use of your fingers can cause damage to the delicate joints of your hand.  Especially after middle age, degenerative processes leave the hands more vulnerable to injuryand it is well known that injury can be a precursor to arthritis. The TP BuddieRx was created to prevent that while affording targeted release.

Using the TP BuddieRx – Here we describe a simple Type 1 release, which is done in a standing or seated position and is good for beginners and perfect for those times when you just want to do a light and quick release for relief at the office, in the car, or pre/post activity.  This is the release for the supraspinatus of your left shoulder, but it is a good to balance out both sides by doing the same to the other shoulder when you are done, even if you only think you have trigger points on one side.  First, find sore spots or muscle knots on the supraspinatus by using your fingers for biofeedback.  Once you have a general idea of where to begin, place your left hand on the C-curve of the TP BuddieRx and place it over the supraspinatus near the shoulder blade above the spine of the scapula, and put your right hand on S1.  The left hand is for guiding along the supraspinatus while the right-hand is used for generating pressure on the muscle (although you may find that S2 works better for you).  Use Point 2 on the TP BuddieRx to press-and-hold the sore spots starting near the neck and working outward until you reach the end of the shoulder.   Specifically, the press-and-hold action is to press and hold for several seconds, then let go.  To generate additional leverage you can rotate your right hand toward your jawbone and use your neck to provide additional pressure.

To stretch your supraspinatus, rotate your arm so that the back of your hand is low against your spine, then relax the shoulder down.

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