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Sternalis Trigger Points

The Sternalis Muscle is present in about 7% of the population and is insufficiently referenced in anatomy textbooks


Sternalis trigger points can cause considerable pain, and are too often overlooked.

The sternalis muscle is a relative rarity that is believed to be prevalent in around 7-8% of the population. The sternalis typically sits in front of the pectoralis major, and parallel to the margin of the sternum. It may be a variation of the pectoralis major or of the rectus abdominis.

The anatomy of the sternalis is variable and it may be present only on one side of the chest. The function of the sternalis, if any, is still currently unknown.

Unfortunately this muscle is insufficiently mentioned in standard anatomy textbooks, and is all too often overlooked, especially when it comes to trigger points.

Trigger Points

Trigger points in sternalis may develop as satellite trigger points of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, a direct trauma to the area, or may manifest following a heart attack.

In fact, the pain caused by sternalis trigger points may often be mistaken for a heart attack and lead clients to start calling for an ambulance.

Common Symptoms

In most cases, the client will present with a deep ache beneath the breastbone that may also extend across the upper chest, into the front of the shoulder, and down the inner arm to the elbow.

Where the referral is on the left side of the body, it may also extend past the elbow.

Many experts have suggested that a trigger point located around the top of the sternalis muscle may be a source of a dry, hacking cough.

Sternalis trigger points are more common in the upper part of the muscle, and on the left side of the sternum.

Studies have indicated a higher prevalence in females. However it has been proposed that the existence of small, ill-defined or tendinous fibers, could be misidentified as a sternalis muscle.

General Advice for the Therapist

Firstly, remember to check for the presence of this muscle. A prevalence of 7-8% means that about one in fifteen of your clients will present with a sternalis, so it's not that rare!

Make sure to check for trigger points in the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and the pectoralis major muscles, as these trigger points that may be perpetuating sternalis trigger points. 


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This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. 



Sophia said:

Thanks for this information. Never heard about this muscle.
Have you ever discovered a referred pain in the back at the same segment hight by pressing the sternalis triggerpoint?
I suffer from backpain paravertebral on the right side and i had a lot of therapies, but nobody could solve my problem. Now i discovered this triggerpoint in the front and it produces the exact same severe pain on my back, but i can’t release it. Do you have some information?

James Pryce said:

Thank you very much for this. I am working my through your trigger point course and these blogs really help. Do you have any videos for treating sternalis?

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Scraping, a manual, ancient practice where pain points are worked with a gua sha (smooth-edged tool), reportedly increases blood flow by up to 400 per cent more than foam rolling and massage guns. By breaking up old, damaged blood vessels to promote new growth and healing, these tools are useful for getting into the nooks and crannies of a pain point, especially in delicate areas like along the shin muscles and under the foot.

Tim Tian has taken the scraper idea and supercharged it, creating a manual, triangular tool that blends heat and vibration therapy. “Cold blades stiffen muscles, blocking a deep release,” he says.

The heated scraper device takes just three seconds to reach 50ºC. This helps muscles soften, making it easier to massage away tension, increase blood flow and promote healing. The scraper is specially great for alleviating delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the quads, and provides a relaxing switch-up from the foam roller slog.