Muscle Knots in Shoulder

Shoulder pain is caused by a number of different muscles, primarily those that attach directly to the shoulder blade. Knots in the shoulder blade can refer pain locally around the shoulder blade and to the front of the shoulder, while other muscle knots can refer pain to the shoulder as well as other parts of the body.

Common shoulder muscle knots, which consist of tight and contracted muscles, are indicated below by a black dot. The red area in the illustrations indicates “referred pain” – meaning, the pain you feel is often not in the location of your trigger point until you press on it. As an example, you may feel pain in the shoulder, but the trigger point may actually be in the neck.

The Scaleni is a group of three, complex muscles located on the side of the neck. It is often the trigger point or the source of the muscle knot responsible for generating referred pain elsewhere.

Muscle knots in the Scalene muscles of the neck can cause pain in the upper arm.

Common Conditions Relating to Pain in the Shoulder Muscle:

  • Frozen shoulder
  • Discomfort with overhead movement
  • Pseudothoracic Outlet Syndrome
  • Pain reaching forward and up
  • Deep shoulder joint pain
  • Rotator cuff pain

A common source of shoulder pain is the rotator cuff, whose purpose is to stabilize the shoulder joint. There are four muscles in the rotator cuff muscle group. The muscles lift the arm out to the side of the body (Supraspinatus), move the arm away from the body (Infraspinatus and Teres Minor), and move the arm forward to the body (subscapularis). Knots in these shoulder muscles can refer pain to the front of the shoulder, down the arm, into the hand, and back of the shoulder, and produce pain around the wrist.

The Infraspinatus, one of four muscles controlling the rotator cuff, can create referred pain affecting the entire arm.


  • Locate the muscle knot by applying pressure to the area causing pain. A muscle knot can be actively painful, or you might not even know it exists until you put pressure on it.
  • Rub the muscle knot to allow blood and oxygen to circulate freely to that muscle area.
  • Find the right pressure. When you press on a muscle knot with just the “right amount of pressure”, it can make you laugh and cry at the same time because it can “hurt so good”. Pressing too hard, however, it can make you cry for mercy!
  • If you gently rub the muscle knot you may feel tenderness in both the muscle and the muscle knot. Sometimes, the referred pain symptoms are able to be reproduced when pressure is applied to the muscle knot.