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Brachialis Muscle Pain & Trigger Points

The brachialis muscle is the main flexor of your elbow joint. If it harbours active trigger points, it can trigger pain at the base of your thumb, in your elbow or at the front of your shoulder.

As it is covered by the biceps brachii, this muscle is not known to many people. People who frequently overload it include fitness enthusiasts, guitar players or rock climbers. Still, anyone can experience trouble in this muscle.

1. Pain Patterns & Symptoms of the Brachialis Muscle

1.1 Pain patterns

The brachialis can trigger shoulder pain, upper arm pain as well as thumb pain.

Thus, it can contribute to…

Visualization of the pain patterns

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1.2 Symptoms & complaints

When this muscle is too tense, or harbours trigger or tender points, it can impair the extension of your elbow. Furthermore, lifting or holding heavy objects with your arm in a flexed position may be painful. Of course, any pulling motion can be impaired or painful too.

Such activities may be

  • Carrying boxes of heavy books
  • Handling a chainsaw
  • Fitness exercises – e.g. pull ups, arm curls, chin ups, rowing: Anything involving elbow flexion –.
  • Playing the guitar – especially the strumming arm –.

2. Brachialis Attachment Points

  • The brachialis attaches at the ulna and at the front of your humerus.

3. Function of the Brachialis Muscle

This muscle has only one function, namely flexing your elbow.

4. Trigger Point Activation in the Brachialis

The brachialis muscle gets overloaded and develops trigger points mainly through repetitive stress and overuse. That means if you use the muscle too often or too hard, it may give you pain.

When performing biceps curls, wielding a heavy chainsaw, or lifting furniture, take frequent rests, especially if you are not used to that kind of work.

It is really sustained stress which is problematic: The furniture-moving example being exemplary: You may over-stress the muscle because mostly you carry things with your elbows bent, which activates the muscle permanently.

5. Palpation of the Brachialis Muscle

Although this muscle lies deep to the biceps brachii, it is pretty accessible as the biceps can be pushed to the side quite easily.

Put your thumb in your elbow crease and move it a couple of times sideways. You should feel a muscle “jumping” under your thumb.

Travel a little upwards your arm to feel where the muscle runs. That muscle is your brachialis.

6. Brachialis Muscle: Self-massage

For massage, I recommend using the thumb technique.

  • First push your biceps to the side – as explained above – and then search for tender and trigger points in the muscle.
  • For navigation of the most common tender spots you can use the muscle picture which is shown above.
  • Xs indicate where those points usually develop.
  • As soon as you find a trigger or tender point, massage it a couple of times with deep and repeated strokes.
  • Pay attention not to slide off the muscle as there is a nerve running in its vicinity. It will not result in a permanent damage, but if you pressure the nerve too much, it may give you pain for some time. So, be cautious and do not force things.

References

  • Calais-German, Blandine. Anatomy of Movement. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993. Print
  • Davies, Clair, and Davies, Amber. The Trigger Point Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide For Pain Relief. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Print
  • Simons, David G., Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. Print.
  • Schünke, Michael., Schulte, Erik, and Schumacher, Udo. Prometheus: Lernatlas der Anatomie. Stuttgart/New York: Georg Thieme Verlag, 2007. Print