Massage Matters

Mindful musings on massage, muscles, and moxie

The Knot Whisperer Rides!

The Knot Whisperer Rides!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How I'd Get That Pain? Part 2, Torso

As noted in part 1 of this article, there are times when there is little doubt about why you have a particular pain. But if you have a muscle pain that seems to come from nowhere, factors such as those listed below might be responsible—factors that could be avoided in the future. Of course, when you can’t dodge an ache, it’s time to see your massage therapist!



Stressors of That Muscle

Rectus abdominis

Top layer of muscle over the center of the belly

Prolonged driving in the car; collapsed chest and rounded shoulders; excessive exercise; pregnancy or obesity

External obliques

Sides of ribs and belly

Actions involving throwing; scoliosis and postures with compressed ribs; prolonged postures involving a rotational component (e.g., sitting at a desk in a sustained twisted position); pregnancy or obesity

Internal obliques

Outer edges of the front of the belly

Compressed posture toward one side; leaning toward one side or forward for long periods of time while seated; pregnancy or obesity


Front of hip bone to spine, through the abdomen

Prolonged sitting with knees above the hip or hip in a jackknifed position; hyperlordosis/anterior pelvic tilt; sleeping in a fetal position; lower limb length inequality or small hemipelvis; excessive sit-ups

Pectoralis major

Chest, from breastbone to upper arm

Collapsed chest, protracted head syndrome, protracted/rounded shoulders; excessive exercise (e.g., push-ups, weight machines); sustained lifting in a fixed position (e.g., using power tools)

Pectoralis minor

From third and fourth ribs to top of arm; under pec major

Use of a crutch; prolonged compression (e.g., carrying a knapsack with a tight strap); kyphosis, poor sitting habits or poor chair design, poor posture; collapsed chest, respiratory problems, vigorous breathing; prolonged position with arm overhead (e.g., during sleep or painting a ceiling)

Serratus anterior

Side of first eight or nine ribs

Excessive exercise such as push-ups, lifting heavy weights overhead; irritation of lungs (e.g., smoking, asthma, chronic cough); excessively fast or prolonged running


Top of arm, at shoulder

Intramuscular injections, such as B vitamins, penicillin, influenza vaccine; overhead repetitive strain develops during prolonged lifting (e.g., holding a power tool); any repetitive movement with arms at or above shoulder height


Between spine and shoulder blades, deep to middle traps

Well-developed pectoralis major muscle pulls the shoulder forward, overloading the weaker rhomboid muscle; prolonged leaning forward and working in the rounded shoulder position

Trapezius, middle

Top of thoracic spine to top of shoulder

Collapsed chest and protracted shoulders; kyphotic and scoliotic conditions; behaviors associated with forward head posture

Trapezius, lower

Mid-thoracic spine to top of shoulder

Rounded shoulders; if there is kyphosis, the lower traps becomes a postural muscle, acting like a fourth erector spinae


Under the shoulder blade

Repetitive/chronic tendonitis; reaching in back seat of car and lifting a heavy object; playing tennis, weightlifting


Covers the lower part of the shoulder blade

Sleeping on the affected side (compresses and stimulates trigger points); sleeping on opposite side (arm falls forward, stretching affect muscle bands); grabbing backward for support to regain balance or mis-hitting a ball in racket sports


Covers the upper part of the shoulder blade

Carrying heavy objects (such as a suitcase) with arm hanging down at the side; lifting objects above shoulder height with the arm outstretched

Teres major

Stretches from lower part of outer edge of shoulder blade to top of arm

Driving a heavy car without power steering; butterfly stroke during swimming

Quadratus lumborum

From mid-lumber spine to last rib

Sitting on a wallet; functional short leg; contracts with high hip or anterior pelvic title; awkward lifting movements; carrying a child on a hip over a long period of time

Latissimus dorsi

Lower part of the thoracic spine to top of arm

Repetitive reaching forward and upward, either to manipulate some awkwardly large object or to pull something down (e.g., butterfly stroke); rounded shoulder posture

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