Serratus anterior muscle pain & trigger points

The serratus anterior muscle can give you pain at the side of your chest, beside your shoulder blade or at the inside of your arm.

1. Pain patterns and symptoms

1.1 Pain patterns

If trigger points are troubling your serratus anterior, you might experience pain mainly at the side of your ribcage and low down at the inner side of your shoulder blade.

Furthermore, pain can radiate down the whole inner side of your arm. Also your inner hand and 4th and 5th finger might be painful – not shown in the pictures below -.

The serratus mainly contributes to…

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1.2 Symptoms & complaints

These are mostly limited to pain or a stitch during breathing.

The reason for this is that your chest expands during breathing which in turn elongates your serratus anterior.

If it is too tight or contains trigger points this may be painful. You even may feel short of breath.

2. Attachment points

The serratus anterior runs from the first 9 of your ribs in a planar manner to your shoulder blade. It consists of three parts.

  • upper/superior part
  • middle/intermedius part
  • lower/inferior part

The X1 displays a common area where tender or trigger points develop in this muscle.

3. Function of the serratus anterior

As a whole, the serratus anterior muscle helps to stabilize the shoulder blade and also works in abduction and rotation

When the shoulder blade is in a fixed position – e.g. breathing after a sprint – the serratus anterior lifts the ribcage and thus supports breathing.

4. Trigger point activation in the serratus anterior

If you are doing lots of heavy sprinting intervals you can overwork your serratus anterior muscle and eventually suffer from trigger points.

Why? When running, your arms are swinging pretty heavy.

During the forward swing your serratus is very active to bring your arm forwards and upwards.

When you are not used to this or do not give yourself sufficient rest, this may become too much pretty quick.

Also a bad cough can overwork your serratus anterior as you often might breathe very hard during that time.

5. Serratus anterior muscle palpation

Your serratus anterior muscle is very thin and covers the side of your rib cage.

  • You can feel it by putting your hand just below the arm pit.
  • It also helps to experience how your ribs feel, so that you can distinguish the ribs and this thin and superficial muscle.
  • To do so, just feel the first ribs under your nipple.
  • Now you will be able to distinguish the muscle from the ribs.

6. Self-massage of the serratus anterior muscle

You can massage this muscle with your hands or with a massage ball.

6.1 Self-massage with your hands or a ball

  • Place a massage ball or your hands on the serratus and search for tender or trigger points.
  • As soon as you encounter such a point, stay in its vicinity and massage it with slow and precise strokes.
  • That means you either roller over it with the ball or pull over it with your hand.

Beispielhafte Massagepositionen

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Massage with the hand

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Massage with a massage ball

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