Muscle and Joint Pain of the Upper Arm

Usual Suspects:

  1. Muscles of the upper back / shoulder blade region
  2. Muscles of the front of the neck and upper chest
  3. Muscles of the upper arm

The Imbue Pain Relief Patch temporarily relieves minor aches and pains of muscles and joints. In the diagrams below, the X’s show the locations of common trigger points (localized muscle strain), and the colored shading shows the pain pattern each trigger point produces. This pain is often several inches (or more) away from the trigger point at which it originates. If application of the Imbue Patch directly to the knee does not significantly improve your pain, applying the Imbue Pain Relief Patch at the site of strain in nearby muscles sometimes yields better results.

Pain in the upper arm sometimes originates exactly where you feel it, so you can try sticking the Imbue Pain Relief Patch at the site of the pain first, especially if there is a known cause (such as a blunt trauma or strain). However, if this doesn’t yield satisfactory results, more investigation is needed. Upper arm pain can also come from trigger points in the muscles of the upper back (the red zone, #1, in the diagram above), the muscles of the front of the neck and upper chest (the yellow zone, #2, in the diagram above), and the muscles of the upper arm (the blue zone, #3, above).

Upper Arm Pain Due to the Muscles of the Upper Back and Shoulder Blade

Nearly all the muscles of the upper back and shoulder are capable of producing pain in the arm. It is important to methodically feel this entire area to find the origin of this pain. Feel above the shoulder blade, along its inside border, along its outside border, beneath it, and on top of it. You can accomplish this with the help of a friend, who can press on all the muscles in this area and mark the ones that are tender; or by using a Theracane or a ball. To find tender spots with a ball, use a lacrosse ball or a tennis ball, and either lie on it on the floor (knees bent, feet flat) or place it between your back and a wall (see diagram). Carefully roll it over this whole area, paying close attention to the most painful areas. Treat any tender spots you find with massage and application of the Imbue Pain Relief Patch.

Following are some of the muscles most commonly involved in upper arm pain.


This is one of the four rotator cuff muscles. It runs from the upper surface of the shoulder blade through the shoulder joint and attaches to the top of the arm bone (humerus). It is somewhat hidden under other layers of muscle, so press deeply to feel all along the region just above a horizontal ridge of bone on the shoulder blade (the spine of the scapula). Trigger points in supraspinatus can cause aching in the shoulder, extending to the outside of the upper arm, forearm, and even wrist. The pain may make raising the arm difficult. There may be popping or snapping sounds in the joint when this muscle is tight. The X’s in the diagram show these trigger points and the red shading displays the supraspinatus pain pattern.


Infraspinatus, despite being a very easy muscle to access, is often overlooked, maybe because the bulk of it is on top of the shoulder blade and people either don’t think to press on bone or believe it’s sore just because there’s bone beneath it. The X’s in this diagram show where main infraspinatus trigger points occur (in the rather shallow, tight muscle that lies over the lower 2/3rds of the back of the shoulder blade). The red shading indicates the pain pattern this muscle can cause (not necessarily all at once). Infraspinatus is one of the most epidemically cranky muscles in the human body.

The infraspinatus joins the back of the shoulder blade to the top of the arm bone (humerus) and when it’s strained, it usually sends pain deep into the joint and into the front of the shoulder, sometimes also inhibiting shoulder movement (“frozen shoulder”). The pain can extend down the arm and forearm, to the middle fingers and thumb. It occasionally radiates into the neck. Strain of infraspinatus may weaken the shoulder and make it difficult to reach behind the back.

Serratus Posterior Superior:

In this diagram, the X shows where primary serratus posterior superior trigger points occur (on top of the ribs, just next to or slightly underneath the shoulder blade) and the red shading shows the pain it is capable of producing. Serratus posterior superior connects the spine of the upper back to the ribs beneath the shoulder blade. When it is strained, it produces a dull ache under the shoulder blade, and can refer pain to the back of the shoulder joint and arm, the tip of the elbow, the outside of the wrist, the pinky side of the hand, the pinky, and even the chest directly in front of the muscle.


Subscapularis is a tricky muscle to find and a painful one to work on, but it’s often the key to stubborn arm pain. This muscle is primarily attached to the front surface of the shoulder blade – the side that faces the back of the rib cage – and it connects to the upper arm. The red shading in the diagram shows the areas of pain this muscle is capable of producing, which includes the area over the shoulder blade, the back of the shoulder, the shoulder joint itself, the underside of the arm, and the wrist.

The black X on the left points to the edge of the shoulder blade where it’s possible with some digging to feel a bit of subscapularis. This is easiest when the shoulder blade is made to protrude beyond the side of the rib cage. This can be accomplished by bringing your arm across your chest and then using the thumb of the other hand to feel for the edge of the shoulder blade a bit below the armpit. Another way to get to it is to sit in a chair and slump over, so that your arm hangs down at your side. This also brings the shoulder blade out over the side of the rib cage. With the other hand, you can get your fingers or thumb into the tight space between the edge of your shoulder blade and the rib cage. You’ll know you’ve got it when you find some very tender spots.

Massaging these spots is usually unpleasant but if subscapularis is implicated in arm pain, releasing tension here can provide almost immediate relief. You can use the Imbue Patch on this area, though it is not always beneficial, since the muscle is mostly hidden. If you wish to try, another area to consider is over the back of the shoulder blade in the regions of the outlined X’s on the right side of this diagram.

Other Muscles of the Upper Back:

Three other muscles of the upper back can cause pain in the upper arm, namely teres major, teres minor, and latissimus dorsi. Their trigger points are all in the same general area, and they all cause pain of the back of the upper arm. Teres minor trigger points are usually found at the upper, outer corner of the back of the shoulder blade. While pressing here, try rotating your arm to make this muscle stand out. Just below this, behind the armpit, is teres major. Its trigger points may also be found toward the lower tip of the shoulder blade on the outside edge. Latissimus dorsi (often referred to as the “lat”) is a very large muscle covering much of the middle to lower back. It has many possible trigger point locations, but the ones that are implicated in upper arm pain are located in much the same area as teres major. Reach through your armpit to feel along the outside border of the shoulder blade and the surrounding ribs with your fingertips. The diagrams below show common locations of these trigger points (indicated by the black X) and the pain patterns they are capable of producing (indicated by the red shading). If you find significant tenderness while pressing in this area (especially if it produces the arm pain you have been experiencing), do some massage here and then apply the Imbue Pain Relief Patch.

Teres Major

Teres Minor

Latissimus Dorsi

Upper Arm Pain Due to the Muscles of the Front of the Neck and Upper Chest

Several muscles in this region can produce pain in the arm, often extending down to the forearm and fingers. Examine this region thoroughly and use the Imbue Pain Relief Patch wherever you find significant tenderness, especially when it produces (or alleviates) the arm pain you have been experiencing. Following are the primary culprits.


These muscles, a group of three (sometimes four) bands on the front/side of the neck, can cause very unusual pain sensations in the arms, hands, chest, and back (see red shaded regions on diagram). People almost never suspect them because there is rarely discomfort at the muscle itself (except when pressed). They are fairly unpleasant to have massaged, but when the scalenes are implicated, getting them to relax can yield profound results.

The scalenes are partly buried underneath the sternocleidomastoid (SCM). This diagram shows the SCM in red, which is easily visible through the skin. The scalenes are shown in yellow and are only partly visible. The blue area is muscles of the back and shoulder. Start by pressing just above the middle of your collar bone on the side that you have pain on. Then gradually work your way toward the front of the neck where you will feel a superficial band of muscle (SCM), which lies on top of the scalenes. Then begin working your way up the neck, pushing the SCM aside, pressing instead on the harder deeper muscle beneath. Next work back, going as far back as the very side of the neck. Try to cover the entire area in the red triangle in the lower diagram. Pay special attention to points that produce an unpleasant painful or nervy sensation that may travel to other areas. These are key spots for gentle self massage and placement of the Imbue Patch.


Subclavius means “under the collarbone,” which is where it is located. In this diagram of the muscles and bones of the chest and arm, the collarbone is shown in yellow and subclavius is blue.

For such a small muscle, subclavius can produce an impressively broad pain pattern. In the trigger point diagram, the X indicates the general area of subclavius trigger points and the red shading shows its potential pain. This includes the biceps, forearm, thumb, index finger, and middle finger.

Starting below the innermost end of the collarbone (where it joins with the sternum), push in and up, as if trying to get your thumb or fingers under the collarbone. Gradually work your way outward toward the shoulder. The most common site of subclavius trigger points is about at its midpoint (halfway between the center of the chest and the armpit). When you find a tender spot, massage and apply the Imbue Patch here. Be sure to use a large enough piece of the Patch to cover above and below the collar bone by a couple inches (as if trying to wrap it around the bone).

Pectoralis Minor and Major:

The pectoral muscles, which form the bulk of the musculature of the chest, occasionally produce arm pain. Starting below the outer end of the collarbone, methodically press in a downward line toward the armpit crease. Then continue along the outside edge of the chest muscle. Gradually work inward, being sure to cover the whole area from the collar bone at the top to the nipple at the bottom, working in as far as the sternum (breastbone). If you find a tender spot that produces (or alleviates) the arm pain you have been experiencing, apply massage and the Imbue Pain Relief Patch here.

Arm Pain Due to Muscles of Upper Arm

Although one might think the muscles of the upper arm would be responsible for most cases of pain in this region, they are actually less apt to be the cause of the pain than some of the previously mentioned muscles do. Even when there are trigger points in these muscles, they are often secondary, or satellite, trigger points that are promoted by trigger points in the more central muscles discussed earlier. When this is the case, treating the muscles of the upper arm won’t yield good results until the primary trigger points are alleviated.

Following is a discussion of each of the main arm muscles involved in upper arm pain. Be sure to feel each of these muscles thoroughly.

Biceps Brachii:

Strain of the biceps muscle (shown in red in the diagram) can cause broad pain of the upper arm, from the front of the shoulder to the crease of the elbow. Press methodically in this muscle, especially midway between the shoulder and the elbow, to locate any significantly tender spots. It will take several passes to cover the whole width of the muscle. The X’s in the diagram show likely locations of trigger points. If you find one (or more), and especially if they produce pain that radiates upward, place the Imbue Patch here. You can also massage these points, and try pressing on each tender point while slowing flexing and extending the forearm repeatedly.

Triceps Brachii:

The triceps is a three part muscle that covers the back of the upper arm (shown in yellow in the biceps diagram above). Trigger points in triceps can cause pain that radiates up the arm into the back of the shoulder, and also down to the elbow (mimicking “tennis elbow”) and forearm. Each of the X’s in this diagram indicates a common site of trigger points in the triceps (though it is always worth feeling the whole muscle thoroughly), and the shading of the same color indicates the pain pattern each trigger point is capable of producing. Any of these points can lead to pain in the ring finger and pinky. The blue points refer pain mostly to the shoulder and outer arm. They are on the inner edge of the triceps muscle. The yellow point is often the culprit in tennis elbow. The red point, besides causing pain at the back of the upper arm, can lead to a numb pain of the thumb side of the hand. The green point can make the elbow hypersensitive to pressure. The orange point is on the inside of the triceps muscle, sometimes closer to the front than the back (pictured here more toward the back than it tends to be). Massage any tender points you find and apply the Imbue Pain Relief Patch here.


Coracobrachialis is a small, thin muscle located on the inside of the upper arm between the biceps and the triceps. The X in the diagram shows its general location. To actually find this muscle, you need to reach into your armpit with your thumb, and feel along the upper end of the arm bone. While doing this, if you pull the tip of your elbow to your side, you should feel the coracobrachialis tighten. The red shading in the diagram shows the pain pattern this muscle can produce, which includes the front of the shoulder and the back of the upper arm, forearm, hand, and sometimes the middle finger. If you find tenderness here, and especially when your pressure reproduces the pain you have been experiencing, be gentle when massaging this muscle. If you apply the Imbue Pain Relief Patch here, check after an hour or two to be sure the sensitive skin in this area is not becoming irritated.


The deltoid is the muscle that appears to “cap” the shoulder joint. It has an upside-down teardrop shape, and it consists of three portions – the front section (anterior deltoid), the side section (lateral deltoid), and the back section (posterior deltoid). Trigger points in the deltoid are unique in that their pain is felt right at the point, and does not spread much beyond this region. Also, while many other muscles refer pain into the deltoid area, the deltoid is somewhat less likely to be the primary source of pain here. Nonetheless, it is worth feeling this area thoroughly if you experience pain in this area. The X’s in the diagram indicate common sites of trigger points, but you should methodically press on the muscle in vertical lines, starting at the front and gradually making your way to the back. If you find any spots with significant tenderness, massage them and apply the Imbue Pain Relief Patch.


A less likely suspect in upper arm pain, brachialis primarily refers pain to the base of the thumb and makes straightening the elbow difficult. However, it also has the potential to cause some aching at the outside of the upper arm, near the elbow. Feel for it under the outside of the biceps, just above the elbow. Push the biceps aside to get underneath it and press the feel the brachialis against the bone (it goes about halfway up the upper arm).

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