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Massage Aha!

Professional therapeutic massage therapy in Kansas City, MO by Aaron Harris, BCTMB

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The Infraspinatus Muscle

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The Infraspinatus muscle is one of the four infamous “rotator cuff” muscles. It is located on the largest surface of the scapula, or shoulder blade.

Location of the Infraspinatus Muscle
The Infraspinatus Muscle is located on the surface of the scapula.
Zoomed in view of the Infraspinatus Muscle
A closer view of the Infraspinatus Muscle.

On the posterior (back) side of the scapula, there is a bony “spine” where several muscles attach.

The Spine of the Scapula
Posterior view of the right scapula. Note the spine that runs horizontally along the upper third of the bone.

Infra” means “below;” “spinatus” means “spine.” So the name, “Infraspinatus” tells us that this muscle lies below the spine of the scapula.

What Does Infraspinatus Do?

This muscle stabilizes the head of the humerus (long bone of the upper arm) in the shoulder joint when you move your arm up. It also externally rotates the upper arm.

Anyone who commonly uses their upper body in athletic or daily activities is likely to experience some tension or pain in the Infraspinatus muscle. Here are some examples:

  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Swimming
  • Golf
  • Driving
  • Computer mouse use.

Trigger Points

There are three common infraspinatus trigger point locations. Two are near the scapular spine. These refer pain all the way down the arm to the ring and little finger, to the outside point of the shoulder, and up into the base of the skull.

The third common trigger point is along the inside edge of the scapula, near the bottom. This point refers pain along the edge of the scapula that is often mistaken for Rhomboid pain.

Infraspinatus Muscle Trigger Points
Two common Infraspinatus trigger points (marked by X) and the areas of referred pain (marked in blue).
Infraspinatus Muscle Trigger Point
A common Infraspinatus trigger point (marked by X) and the area of referred pain (marked in blue).

Massage of the Infraspinatus Muscle

One of the most common complaints I see with massage clients is shoulder pain. It can be tricky to determine the source of this pain, because there are many muscles and connective tissues that make up this complicated joint. The fact that trigger points refer pain to areas that are sometimes quite far away from the problematic muscles makes finding the source that much harder.

Infraspinatus is almost always the cause of pain in the point of the shoulder. When pressure is applied to a trigger point in this muscle, the client occasionally feels a deep “ache” that travels to the front of the body. I like to call this trigger point a “moan inducer.”

Deep Tissue and Trigger Point Therapy techniques are especially effective in relieving shoulder pain. I also like to use Active Release Techniques on Infraspinatus. This involves pinning the muscle in place and asking you to externally rotate your arm.

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