Teres muscles are the two muscles in the shoulder region that help in shoulder and arm movement. There are two types of teres muscles – Teres Major and Teres Minor.

Teres Major is one of the four rotator cuff muscle located at the upper back region of the shoulder; it connects the shoulder blade to the upper arm. The teres major muscle is an important muscle as it is responsible for a number of shoulder movements in multiple directions. Some of the movements that this muscle controls are – adduction, extension and inward rotation.

Teres Minor is the slender stretched out muscle of the rotator cuff; it helps in rotating the arm sideways and in bringing the arm towards the body. Due to prolonged and regular use of arm and shoulder muscles some people are prone to teres major and teres minor injuries that can be quiet painful. This includes – handball players, swimmers, basketball players, painters, volleyball players, wood choppers, rock climbers, and baseball pitchers. However, you must remember that this muscle pain is not limited to these people; it can occur to anyone who uses their arm and shoulder muscles frequently.

What are Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain?

Teres Major and Teres Minor pain typically occur during various types of arm and shoulder movements. This injury can be divided into two types – acute tear injury and chronic tear injury of the teres major and teres minor. Acute teres major and teres minor pain can happen due to a sudden movement like holding a rope during water sports or while throwing a powerful pitch in baseball. Chronic pain in the muscle develops over a period of time. Typically, chronic pain is located near the tendon and happens due to the tendon touching against the primary bone.

Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain

The teres major and teres minor pain can sometimes feel like a neurological pain due to burning sensation, stinging feeling and numbness in the affected area. Severe teres muscle injury usually occurs to professional athletes. Hence, it is very important for them to get it treated quickly, so that it does not hamper their sport. There are several exercises that one can do to reduce teres major or teres minor pain. However, one must consult a good doctor first and then come up with a workout regime that will help in reducing the pain.

Where does the Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain Happen?

Usually a person suffering from teres major and teres minor pain experiences a spreading pain that may apply to the infraspinatus, posterior deltoid and triceps areas. The teres minor muscle can cause a deep pain in the shoulder which can sometimes be misconstrued as bursitis. Symptoms of teres major or teres minor pain can also include a stinging feeling in the fourth and fifth finger. Depending on the trigger points in the muscle the pain can be at the exact location or it can also spread to other parts of the body.

There are several trigger points that individually or collectively contribute to the teres major and minor pain. Some of them are –

  • Triceps Brachii
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Posterior Deltoid
  • Teres Minor
  • Subscapularis
  • Medial Triceps
  • Fourth finger extensor.

Symptoms of Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain

There are several symptoms that are associated with teres major and teres minor pain. A person suffering from pain in teres major or teres minor pain can feel symptoms of pain at the back of the upper arm when they stretch their arm forward to reach up something. They can also experience symptoms of pain at the backside of the shoulder and upper arm even while resting their elbows on a table. In some cases the pain at the back of the arm passes the elbow and continues down to the back of the forearm. A burning pain, numbness or a stinging feeling in the arm are symptoms of teres major and minor pain.

Causes of Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain

Causes of Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain

The main causes of teres major and minor pain are:

  • Pitching or Throwing a ball
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Driving
  • Chopping wood
  • Exercises like push-ups or chin-ups or repetitive overhead activities.

Another reason for the teres major or teres minor pain is the trigger points which result in severe pain in the posterior deltoid and at the top of the triceps brachii muscle. The trigger points in the muscle can result in a sharp pain even while you are resting your elbow or reaching up with your arm. Any arm and shoulder movement that regularly make use of the latissimus dorsi can intensify the muscle pain.

Diagnosis of Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain and Injury

The doctor or physiotherapist would usually palpate the area and the muscle to find out if it is a teres major or minor pain. Even in case, you are having any of the following condition, the physician would rule out teres major and minor injuries and pain to find the actual cause:

  • Thoracic outlet Syndrome
  • Supraspinatus tendinitis
  • Adhesive capsulitis or Frozen shoulder
  • Dislocation of Glenohumeral joint
  • Subdeltoid/Subacromial bursitis
  • Post-injection soreness
  • Charcot's joint.

In addition to the examining teres major and minor, the following muscles would also be examined to rule out associated or differential diagnosis:

  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Infraspinatus
  • Middle Deltoid

Treatment of Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain

Teres major and minor pain or injuries can be treated with various types of exercise, gels, therapy wraps and workouts. These treatment methods not only help in reducing pain but also in restoring flexibility to the affected area.

  • Warm Gel Therapy for Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain: Applying warm gel on the painful teres muscle can provide relief from the pain. To get a better relief, apply the gel on the back of the upper arm, shoulder and the shoulder blade area.
  • Cold Therapy Gel Method to Treat Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain or Injury: Cold therapy gel method is also an effective treatment method for this muscle pain. Some studies have shown that the cold gel method decreases pain two times more than ice and the relief lasts longer too. Those who suffer from chronic teres major and minor pain can keep the gel in hand and use it as required.
  • Relieving Teres Major and Minor Pain with Ice Wrap: This wrap not only provides relief to the shoulder but also to the upper arm and elbow as the wrap extends till there. This is best for a quick relief and also for recent injuries or sudden onset of pain. Players must always keep it in the freezer for emergency use.
  • Hot and Cold Therapy Wrap to Treat Teres Major or Teres Minor Pain: Hot and cold shoulder therapy wrap is another effective method of treating teres major and minor pain. The wrap is also very effective for those who suffer from shoulder arthritis pain.

It is recommended that you choose a method of treatment only after consulting with a professional to get the best results.

Exercises for Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain

Regular exercise is a simple and effective method to treat teres major and teres minor pain. The workouts provide flexibility to the arm and shoulders and reduce the risk of injury. Some of the exercises for teres major and minor pain are described below-

  • Door Frame Stretching Exercise to get Relief from Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain: Stand in front of an open door frame. Stretch the right arm below shoulder height, behind you. Reach back and hold the edge of the doorframe with your thumb pointing to the ground while keeping the elbow straight. Spin your arm outwards so that the elbow fold is in front of the ceiling. Stay in this position for 20-30 seconds and repeat the movement thrice, before switching to the other side.

Next, place your left side to the door frame and reach out with your right arm to grip the doorframe with the right palm facing ahead. Now with your left foot step a little forward while gripping the doorframe with your right hand, till you can stretch fully. Stay in this position for 20-30 seconds and then stand straight to ease the weight from the shoulder. Repeat this movement three times and then switch sides.

  • Tennis Ball Exercise to Reduce Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain: Stand in front of the wall with the affected side facing the wall. Next, position the ball on the wall at the height of your armpit and press it with your body's side so that it reaches the injured area. You must take care to not let the ball slide to the rib cage. Now start massaging the injured muscle with slow and deep strokes. When you encounter the sore muscle, stay on that spot and work on it precisely.
  • Stretching Exercises for Teres Major and Teres Minor Pain: Put right arm over the head with elbow bent. Grab the right wrist with the left hand and pull it gently till you feel a stretch. Stay in this position for 10-15 seconds and then repeat it on the other side. Repeat the entire cycle thrice and do the stretches at least three times a day to get good results.

Although an overlooked muscle, teres major and minor pain can be extremely intense. Moreover, since the pain can radiate to other places giving a look that the pain is in a different muscle, the doctor must be efficient enough to judge all the sides and diagnose the condition. In case there is an onset of the associated conditions mentioned above, the physician must check pain or trigger points in these two small muscles. Doing the stretches regularly can also prevent injuries to teres major and minor. However, if you have already injured the muscle do apply the gel and hot and cold pack to prevent the pain from aggravating and seek medical help without much delay.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: August 30, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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