Brachioradialis muscle pain & trigger points

The brachioradialis muscle is mainly a flexor of your elbow and assists the extensors of your hand to bend your wrist backwards.

It gets overworked by excessive gripping motions and can induce pain that is commonly interpreted as tennis elbow pain.

1. Pain patterns and symptoms

If this muscle is too tight and/or contains tender and trigger points, respectively, it can send pain to your elbow and/or forearm.

Additionally you might feel pain on the back of your hand or between your thumb and index finger.

Thus it may contribute to your Tennis Elbow Pain.

1.2 Symptoms & complaints

Among others, you might feel pain or experience impaired movements when…

  • using a screw driver
  • drinking a cup of coffee – you might even let it fall as your hand feels weak –
  • shaking someones’ hand
  • turning a door knob

2. Attachment points of the brachioradialis

This muscle runs from the outer/lateral ridge of your humerus to the very end of your radius.

3. Function of the brachioradialis

The main function of the brachioradialis is the flexion of your elbow, especially when your forearm is pronated.

Additionally it supports the extension of your wrist.

The picture to your right shows the flexion of my elbow with my forearms pronated.

If I had my forearms supinated, then my palms where facing upwards.

There is a common misconception that this muscle is a supinator of your forearm – hence its “old name” supinator longus -.

The brachioradialis brings your forearm back in a neutral position after it has been supinated or pronated. Thus it acts like a neutralizer.

EMG studies showed that it only supports the supination and pronation out of a neutral position if there is additionally external resistance. This is the case when you tighten or loosen up a screw with a screwdriver, for example.

Furthermore it stabilizes your wrist when you are gripping something hard. This stabilization work prevents your wrist from bending, which is the motion that the flexors of your hand and wrist would initiate with a gripping motion.

Beside its stabilizing function of the wrist, this muscle also stabilizes your elbow when you are moving  it very fast and high centrifugal forces develop. This might be the case when you perform a hook punch in boxing.

4. Trigger point activation

Especially excessive gripping motions are prone to overload the muscle and can to lead to the development of elevated muscle tension, tender and/or trigger points in this muscle.

The reason for this is the already described stabilizing function of the wrist that occurs with a strong grip.

Activities that are very common to overload this muscle areRock climbing

  • Back hand tennis play
  • Manual labor

5. Palpation

Feeling this muscle won’t be a problem for you as it is located superficially on the inner and upper side of your forearm.

Just take your forearm in front of you and make a tight fist with the same hand. Keep your fist strong while you palpate the muscle at the inner and upper side of your forearm.

You can feel its tendon inserting at your upper arm just above your elbow joint.

From there it is easy to feel and follow the muscle belly, which gets thinner and thinner the further you travel down your forearm.

6. Brachioradialis self-massage

For massage I recommend using your thumb, elbow or a massage ball.

6.1 Self-massage with your elbow

Most of the times you will find tender spots in the upper third of this muscle – also see the X under attachment points -.

Search for those tender spots and massage each of them with slow and precise strokes for about 10 – 15 times. Start the strokes right before a tender spot and stop them right after you passed it.

Keep in mind that most tender spots, especially trigger points, are small and need very accurate massage in order to eliminate them in the long run. So, keep your focus and do not just massage around those spots.

6.2 Self-massage with a massage ball

  • Place the ball on the brachioradialis and lean against a wall.
  • Now roll over it and search for tender points.
  • When you find one, roll over it for approximately 15 times.
  • Proceed in this manner with every tender spot in the muscle.

Pressure-motion technique

  • Again, search for tender areas, but this time with your thumb.
  • When you encounter one, stay on it and bend and extend your wrist for some time.
  • Concentrate on the most painful ranges of motion.
  • With your thumb you can pressurize the muscles quite hard.
  • I recommend to pay attention and not to overdo it. Just listen to the reactions of your body.
  • Additionally I recommend warmly to support your thumb with your index finger, in order to save it from unnecessary strain.

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