Subclavius: Muscle Pain & Trigger Points

Most people do not know about the subclavius muscle, but it can be the source of pain in the area of the biceps, your inner forearm or the first three fingers.

A rounded back or desk work can contribute to problems in this muscle.

1. Pain Patterns & Symptoms of the Subclavius Muscle

1.1 Pain patterns

With trigger points in this muscle, you might feel pain all the way down your arm.

It may even radiate into the thumb and first two fingers. The darker the red in the picture below, the more common it is to feel pain in the respective area when trigger points are present in this muscle.

Hence, this muscle can, among others, contribute to the following pain symptoms.

Click on the just placed links to learn how you can relieve the corresponding pain.


1.2 Impaired or painful movements

I know of no activities that may be impaired with this muscle being too tight.

Still, it might cause a tight feeling in and around the chest and collarbone and may impair the flexibility of the shoulder.

2. Attachment Points of the Subclavius Muscle

The subclavius connects the outer and underside of the collarbone with the first rib.

3. Subclavius: Function

On the one hand this muscle helps to stabilize the joint that is formed by the breastbone and the collarbone, called the sternoclavicular joint.

Furthermore, when it contracts, it brings the collarbone and the first rib closer together.

By doing so it helps or assists a protraction – forward shift – of the shoulder.


Shoulder neutral


Protraction at the shoulder

4. Subclavius: Trigger Point Activation

As the subclavius muscle is not exerting or initiating big movements, there are none of such that are common to overstress it.

But a round back brings the muscle in a shortened position.

Over time this makes the muscle tight and eventually activates trigger points.

5. Subclavius: Palpation

The subclavius muscle lies directly under the collarbone and the pectoralis major.

This makes it a little tricky to feel.

But if you bring your arm close to your body and rotate the shoulder inwards, you may be able to feel it with your fingers underneath your collarbone.

If not, do not get upset or stress yourself.

For this muscle it is not too important to feel it if you know where to place the massage equipment.


Note: In the picture I just have my hand on the muscle. My shoulder is NOT rotated medially.


This is a medial rotation.

6. Subclavius: Self-massage

For the self-massage you can use your hands or the Trigger Fairy.

I always recommend using a massager whenever possible in order to save the hands from strain.

Massaging the subclavius muscle will obviously lead to a simultaneous massage of the upper part of your pectoralis major.

This is no problem at all as most people I know of would benefit from massaging their chest anyway.

6.1 Self-massage with the Trigger Fairy

With the Fairy you can execute precise massage strokes or the pressure-motion technique.

Precise massage strokes

  • Place the Fairy on the muscle, directly under your collarbone.
  • Now search for tender spots and massage them with horizontally massage strokes.
  • Make sure to only move the skin and not to slide over it.

Pressure-motion technique

  • Again, place the Fairy on the muscle.
  • Only hold it with one hand.
  • While exerting pressure, slightly move your shoulder backwards repetitively.

Starting position


Retracting the shoulder

6.2 Self-massage with the fingers

  • Place the fingers of the opposite hand on the muscle.
  • Use your fingertips to pressurize the muscle and search for tender spots all the way along your collarbone.
  • Massage each of them with slow and short massage strokes by pulling skin over the muscle.
  • Usually you encounter the most painful spots towards your sternum and chestbone, respectively.

Alternative massage position for easier access to the muscle

If you lift your arm 90° and rotate your shoulder medially, you will “loosen” some fibers of the pectoralis major, which lies over the subclavius.

Thus you will have easier access to the muscle.

But there is also a disadvantage, which is that you cannot use your free hand to support your massaging hand.

This means you put more stress on your fingers.

Still, in this position you can use the Trigger Fairy, too. This way you get rid of this disadvantage.


  • 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