Teres minor muscle pain & trigger points

Muscular problems in the teres minor muscle can mimic and feel like bursitis in your shoulder.

It is a small muscle that teams up with three other muscles – infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis – to form the rotator cuff.

Common people that suffer are the ones that also are prone to suffer from infraspinatus problems. Those include, but are not limited to

  • Rock Climbers
  • Volleyball players
  • Handball players
  • Baseball players
  • Swimmers
  • Painters

1. Pain patterns and symptoms

1.1 Pain patterns

Trigger points in your teres minor can make it ache right at the location of these spots, but also send pain to other, more distant parts of your body.

If your teres minor contains trigger points, it mainly will give you pain at the side of your shoulder.

Beside that, pain can radiate slightly into the backside of your arm.

Because of this, it can contribute to

  • Back of shoulder pain

Click on this link to learn how to relieve yourself from this ache.

To your right you can see the pain zones, highlighted in red.

The darker the red, the likelier it is to feel pain in the respective area when your teres minor has trigger points.

1.2 Impaired or painful movements

As this muscle supports the infraspinatus you will understand that trigger points or excessive muscle tension in this muscle will affect the same movements.

If you have not read about the infraspinatus, you can do so now by clicking here.

But in general, the movements that will cause pain or that may be impaired are the ones where you rotate your shoulder outwards and reach backwards – like putting on your jacket -.

2. Attachment points of the teres minor muscle

The teres minor muscle runs from the lateral border of the shoulder blade to the tuberculum majus of the humerus – your upper arm bone -.

The X in the picture shows the area where trigger points often develop in this muscle.

3. Function of the teres minor muscle

The teres minor muscle can be seen as the little co – worker of the infraspinatus.

It lies right next to it and thus has very similar attachment points. As you can imagine, this means that they have the same function.

It supports the infraspinatus with the outward rotation of the arm.

It also helps to stabilize your shoulder joint during movement. This means it works to keep the head of your humerus in its socket.

4. Trigger point activation

The activities that overload this muscle are the same like the ones that overload the infraspinatus.

I recommend to check out the infraspinatus anyway as problems in the teres minor rarely occur alone but rather in combination with other muscles of your shoulder joint that have similar functions.

Still, I want to give you one example for how you might have overworked your teres minor – of course this example also accounts for the infraspinatus -.

  • Forcefully throwing a ball, like you do it in Handball or Baseball, might lead to problems in this muscle.

The fast and repetitive extension and outward rotation of your arm – the reaching high behind – every time stresses the muscle. Over time this can be just too much.

5. Teres minor muscle palpation

1

To locate the teres minor, reach under your arm pit and feel the lateral border of your shoulder blade.

2

Place your fingers on the upper third of this border. Then rotate your shoulder outwards.

By doing so you should feel a small muscle bulking up.

If you do not find it right away, do not stress. You may be new to locating muscles at your body.

With some practice you will get better and better at it. Just take your time.

Massage yourself daily until your pains are gone.

To massage the teres minor I recommend using a massage ball.

  • Place the ball on the muscle and on the outer edge/border of your shoulder blade, respectively.
  • Then bend your knees and lean against a wall .
  • Slowly roll over the muscle and search for tender muscle tissue.
  • Massage each painful spot with a couple of rolling motions.

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