Extensor carpi radialis brevis pain & trigger points

The extensor carpi radialis brevis can contribute to pain at the back of your wrist, also called the dorsum of the hand.

Pain from this muscle is mostly felt, if it is afflicted with trigger points or if is too tight. On this page you will learn how to free it from those points and excessive tension.

Additionally you can read about the causes and consequences of strain in this muscle as well as about its functions and insertions.

Feel free to start with the paragraph that is most relevant for you.

1. Pain patterns and symptoms

1.1 Pain patterns

Due to its direct attachment at the wrist, this muscle can induce pain at its back, hand and forearm, if it is too tight.

The same pain can be created if trigger points in this muscle are existent.

1.2 Symptoms and complaints

Beside the pain that you might feel at the back of your hand, it is possible that your grip weakens tremendously if your extensor carpi radialis brevis is strained – too much tension and/or trigger points –.

The weakness can rise to such an extend that you might drop even the lightest objects, like a cup of coffee.

Why is that? Think like this: A strained muscle is mostly too tight, which means it has lots of tension in it.

Now your body doesn’t want you to place even more of that on the muscle, which would occur with a contraction or elongation.

In this case it tries to avoid that by „inhibiting“ and weakening your grip, respectively.

Because if you cannot grip hard, the muscle also doesn’t need to work and stabilize your wrist. I think that makes sense to you, doesn’t it?

2. Attachment points

The extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle runs from the lateral epicondyle down to the 3rd metacarpal bone – above your middle finger –.

At the lateral epicondyle it is covered by its big brother, the extensor carpi radialis longus.

The X displays an area that is often afflicted with trigger points.

3. Function of the extensor carpi radialis brevis

This muscle belongs to the extensor group of your wrist.

During a strong grip or while making a fist, it prevents the wrist from flexion. Hence, it stabilizes it.

It also extends and abducts your wrist. The latter means, that it kinks it to the side of your thumb.

1

Extension at the wrist

2

Abduction at the wrist

4. Trigger point activation in the extensor carpi radialis brevis

The extensor carpi radialis brevis often gets overloaded and develops trigger points due to repetitive use of a strong grip.

Thus, one or more of the following activities leave you with a higher risk of straining this muscle. Surely this list is not complete, but it will give you some examples.

  • Rock climbing
  • Gardening
  • Plumbing
  • Heavy weight lifting
  • Gymnastics – especially rings and bars –
  • Frequent back hand play in tennis
  • Moving and carrying heavy furniture

5. Extensor carpi radialis brevis palpation

To feel this muscle, place your fingers at the upper third of your forearm and extend as well as kink your wrist – to the side of its thumb –.

During these motions, palpate your forearm and try to feel the muscle that is contracting.

Differentiating it from the extensor carp. rad. longus might be tricky for you and is actually not needed. This is because the brevis seldom gets strained without an involvement of the longus and your other wrist extensors.

That means, if you massage partly the „wrong muscle“, it won’t do you any harm but good.

6. Extensor carpi radialis brevis self-massage

The most important thing right ahead. Don’t try to be over-precise here with the massage in terms of staying exactly on the extensor carpi radialis brevis.

In this case, it’s not necessary.

Rather focus your attention on finding every possible tender area and trigger point in your forearm muscles and make sure to work them.

Remember, healthy muscle tissue is not painful if pressed on. That in turn means, tender muscles should be massaged.

Here, self-massage can be done with your forearm, your elbow or a massage ball.

Which tool you choose is up to your personal taste and how tender your muscles are. With your forearm you won’t be able to exert as much pressure as with your elbow or a ball. So, decide what feels best for you.

Place the equipment on your muscle and search for tender spots by pressurizing different parts of it. Then, massage every spot you find with very short, slow and precise strokes for 10 – 15 times.

Massage yourself on a daily basis until your pain is gone. Also know that self-massage helps to keep it away. Hence, use it frequently and prevent its reoccurring.

  • Place the ball on your forearm and lean against a wall.
  • Now slowly roll over your forearm and search for tender areas.
  • Especially the area from the mid part of your forearm and upwards is of relevance.
  • As soon as you find a tender spot, roll over it for about 15 times.
  • Proceed like this with the whole upper half of your forearm, and do not forget the area right at your elbow.

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. The Lower Extremities. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1993. Print.
  • Schünke, Michael., Schulte, Erik, and Schumacher, Udo. Prometheus: Lernatlas der Anatomie. Stuttgart/New York: Georg Thieme Verlag, 2007. Print