by Michael Greenspan

Do you or anyone you know ever say the following?

“I’ve got this constant burning between my shoulder blades that won’t go away.” “There’s this pain in my chest like I’m having a heart attack.” “The doctors tell me my shoulders have bursitis and tendonitis yet it’s not getting better.” “I get pain and numbness in my arms and hands and doctors keep misdiagnosing it as carpal tunnel syndrome.”

Your scalenes are a group of 3-4 muscles on both front sides of your neck that very often get these “landmine” trigger points that cause every symptom above. Scalenes are small muscles with huge pain referrals, many times the reason that conventional treatments fail.

You see, hardly ever do people complain about pain in the front sides of their necks. In fact, it’s rare to ever feel much going on in the front of your neck at all. That’s why these scalene muscles are most unsuspecting culprits when it comes to neck, shoulder, arm, hand, and chest pain and at the source over 90% of the time.

So what causes trigger points in the scalene muscles to create all this grief? Scalenes are truly fascinating muscles as they perform many duties in our bodies. Because they attach to our first two ribs and raise them up with inspiration, they actually play a big role to help us breathe. That’s incredible! The muscle that flexes and stabilizes your neck really has a bigger job than that – BREATHING!

What if you’re a “Type A” personality, constantly stressed, on the go, and a chest-breather. You know, never relaxing your stomach and taking a nice, full, deep diaphram breath. Well guess what, if you’re constantly on the go and chest breathing, your going to overuse your scalene muscles unneccesarily. Start “belly breathing” and your scalenes won’t have to work so hard to help you breath by pulling your ribs up. Give your scalenes a much needed vacation by breathing properly, and you’ll eliminate many of the trigger points creating your neck, shoulder, arm, or chest pain.

You say you’re an excellent breather and still have all this pain, so it can’t be trigger points in my scalenes, right? WRONG! How’s your posture? Do you sit at a desk with a forward head posture staring at a computer? Trigger points are constantly created in your scalenes when your head and neck are out of alignment, especially forward head posture and slouching. When you feel like a reality check ask someone to look at you from the side to see how many inches your ear is in front of the center of your shoulder. Yes, you want your ears and shoulders vertically aligned in order to fight gravity and minimize any stress on your scalene muscles.

Besides poor posture and improper breathing, there are so many reasons why your scalene muscles get trigger points causing pain in your body. Coughing when your sick with a cold, allergies, or bronchitis can create scalene trigger points. Carrying, pulling and lifting heavy loads also puts undo stresses on the scalenes leading to ferocious trigger points in the muscle. A car accident 20 years ago could have created numerous scalene trigger points still affecting you today. Left untreated from the accident, your scalene muscles very likely are the reason for any pain today in your neck, shoulders, upper back, arm, hands or chest.

From Sarah: Michael is a skilled Neuromuscular Therapist and Pain Relief Specialist. You can find out more about his practice at his website ->

Leave a Comment