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Brachioradialis Muscle Pain & Trigger Points

The brachioradialis is a flexor of your elbow and an extensor as well as a stabilizer of your hand and wrist, respectively.

Especially excessive gripping motions overload the muscle and can trigger pain that is often interpreted as tennis elbow pain.

1. Pain Patterns & Symptoms

1.1 Pain patterns

If this muscle is too tight and/or contains tender and trigger points, respectively, it can refer 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

Beside the pain described above, you might experience pain or movement impairments when…

  • using a screwdriver
  • drinking a cup of coffee – you might even let it fall as your hand feels weak –
  • shaking somebody’s hand
  • turning a doorknob

2. Attachment Points of the Brachioradialis

The 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 shows the flexion of the elbow with the forearms pronated.

If the forearms were supinated, the 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 have shown 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 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 are…

  • Rock climbing
  • Back hand tennis play
  • Manual labor

I want to relieve my pain

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, stay focused 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