Important muscles involved in hand, wrist & arm pain – Part 1

19 January, 2011 at 00:13 3 comments

There are many intricate muscles and soft tissue structures in the hand, wrist and arm which can cause various types of pain, numbness sensations, weakness, pins and needles or electric shock type of sensations when they become constricted, tight or dehydrated through physical over use or misuse, bad posture, accidents, old injuries (such as high velocity neck impact or whiplash) and deep scar tissue, and/or combined with unremitting emotional stress.

2 muscles which I’d like to draw the reader’s particular special attention to in this article are the scalenes and pectroalis minor muscles.  These are 2 very important and relevant muscles which massage therapists who have been through advanced trainings in say for example clinical massage techniques will know how to treat efficiently and very specifically.  Both of these muscles are very much neglected in most general relaxation massage work.  The scalenes muscles are located in the base of the lower neck and attach to the first and second ribs, whilst the pectoralis minor muscles covers the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rib in the region of the front upper chest.  Both muscles although located respectively in the neck and upper shoulder region are often highly relevant in hand, wrist and arm pain pathologies, one of the main reasons behind this is that the brachial nerve plexus and its subsequent other  sub branching nerves serving the arm passes directly underneath both of these muscles so any tightness in either of these muscles is going to have a direct physical effect on creating nerve related aggravation in these regions.

[Trigger Point Pain Referral Pattern for Scalenes Muscle Group]

[Trigger Point Pain Referral Pattern for Pectoralis Minor Muscle]

Signs of nerve related impingement or over simulation can include pins and needles, intermittent shooting pains over a certain region (such as down the arm), electric shock type sensations, or areas of numbness.  Nerve impingement caused by the scalenes or pectoralis minor muscles can also cause the muscles and proprioception to misfire so causing symptoms of weakness or spasm in the arm, hand or wrist.  Symptoms of carpel tunnel or other repetitive strain injury type side effects can also be triggered or caused by soft tissue tension in these apparently unrelated areas further up and away from the hand, wrist and lower arm (but which you now know after having read this article and viewing the related videos are very much related).

Tightness in the scalenes muscles can cause tingling all the way down to the thumb and first fingers of the hand, whilst pectoralis minor tension cause refer tingling all the way down to the ring finger and little finger.  Constriction of the blood supply serving the arm from a tight pectoralis minor muscle can also cause feelings of coldness or lack of circulation to the fingers.

Habitual shallow breathing, particularly whereby the type of breathing only involves the use of the upper chest (rather than full deep belly breaths) is another potential cause of chronic tightness in the scalenes muscles.  Stress management through gradual build up practice of proper relaxing deep breathing is the perfect antidote.  Notice when you’re stressed or shallow breathing, be gentle and kind to yourself, congratulate yourself for noticing and just start by receiving 3 deep breaths in and out and build up that number over time, the idea is that over time it builds up to more of an unconscious habit rather than a conscious effort.

As with all these topic, there’s always so much that could be written or linked to, this is just what I could cobble together off the top of my head and without turning this into a fully blown dissertation as well as given the fact that I would like to go to bed in a moment (!!), but if you want to know more or have any suggestions I would be glad to receive your feedback as always and compile a part 2 or further subsequent parts as a follow on to this particular article as the demand unfolds.

Be well! :)

Email: info@isca-therapies.co.uk

Visit the ISCA Therapies website: www.isca-therapies.co.uk

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2010 in review Looking for persons to be involved as clinical massage case studies or to receive occasional sessions (Exeter, UK only!)

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lynn Kuo  |  21 April, 2011 at 19:46

    I just had this explained to me by a massage therapist this morning.
    Thank-you so much for sharing this information!

    Reply
  • 2. Sherry Flannagan  |  22 November, 2012 at 22:37

    Thanks so much for this! I’m 20yrs old and have had a really bad back since I was about 14 and I had horses – having to develop very strong arms very quickly to pull back a big feisty horse did a bit of damage then and probably tightened up the pectoralis minor muscle. I also have a large bust for my size and they put a lot of weight on my shoulders and now I realise, they probably pull on the pectoralis too. Like you said, I’ve had lots of massages which are great for a while but after a few days I’m back to being sore all the time. I followed your video instructions on how to locate the muscle and I knew it was going to hurt before you even told me it would – but it’s so great to know there’s a way of getting it better! Thank you :)

    Reply
    • 3. Henry Tang  |  22 November, 2012 at 23:45

      You’re very welcome Sherry! :) It’s been sometime since I wrote that article, in fact it’s been quite sometime since I’ve done any updates to this particular blog site, but very encouraging and gratifying to know that the information contained here is still being found and making a beneficial difference to people’s lives, this is why I continue to do what I do. Thank you for your feedback, much valued! :)

      Reply

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Henry Tang – Therapeutic & Advanced Clinical Massage Practitioner (Exeter, Devon, UK)

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