One Small Muscle – One BIG Pain!

by Julie Donnelly

You try to lift your arm up over your head and you just can’t do it! What is happening here...and what can you do about it?

All that is happening is the body working the way it was made to work. When a muscle is tight it won’t stretch. The problem is most people don’t know about this muscle so they don’t think to treat it to release the tension.

A little muscle called teres major originates on the lower portion of your shoulder blade, close to your armpit. You can see it a good graphic of the teres major by going here.

A muscle always moves so the insertion point (in this case the upper arm) moves toward the origination point (in this case, the outside edge of your shoulder blade). So the teres major would bring your arm down toward your body when you are holding your arm up. However, in order for your arm to lift the teres major needs to stretch, and if it is in spasm (knots) it can’t stretch, so you can’t lift your arm. It’s so logical, yet this muscle is frequently overlooked when a person is trying to find the source of pain and limited range-of-motion.

Most people are shocked when they see how painful it is to treat this tiny muscle. They are even more shocked when they see how quickly it releases so their arm lifts all the way up easily and without pain.

To treat the teres major you take a ball, place it directly on the muscle and then either lie down on the floor so your body weight supplies the necessary pressure, or lean up against a wall and press into the ball.

Hold the pressure for at least 60 seconds and then while still pressing into the ball, lift your arm up over your head. This movement will stretch the muscle fibers and release the tension on both ends of the muscle.

I always suggest that my clients do this treatment several times by just moving the ball a tiny bit in order to cover the entire length of the muscle. You can also continue on by treating your infraspinatus (discussed in a previous newsletter) and the muscles of your upper arm (shown in Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living).