Trapezius: Muscle pain, Stretches, and More

Trapezius: Muscle pain, Stretches, and More

What is the Trapezius Muscle?

The trapezius is large muscle in the upper back and it is triangular. It is from the occipital bone and runs to the thoracic spine. This muscle extends across the shoulders and covers the entire width. 

There are three parts of this muscle which include the inferior, middle and the superior. Each of these parts is necessary for a particular movement in the shoulders as well as the neck.

So, with that said, this article will cover more details about the trapezius as well as common issues, pains as well as how to deal with this pain. 


Functions of the Trapezius

trapezius muscle

As mentioned before, the trapezius is a muscle that is located on the upper back. It is necessary for neck and shoulder movement and it is also necessary for the shoulder blades and their stabilization. 

The superior portion of the trapezius is necessary for the shoulder blades to move upwards. It is also necessary for the tilting of the neck and rotation. 

The middle segment of the trapezius is necessary for stabilization in the shoulders as well as for the shoulder blades to move backward by themselves as well as during various arm movements. The lower segment of the trapezius is necessary for the downward movement of the shoulders. 

Unfortunately, the trapezius can become quite sore and even painful. Some symptoms of trapezius pain include:

  • numbness and even tingling in the arms
  • stiffness in the trapezius
  • muscle spasms
  •  pain in the neck or shoulder
  •  reduces the ability to move the neck or shoulders


Reasons for pain in the Trapezius are:

  • Bad Posture : Bad posture can result in a lot of stress being placed on the trapezius leading to pain. For example, spending a lot of time at a computer or hunched over doing work, writing, etc. This can cause the trapezius muscle to get very tight and even shorten it. 
  • Using It Too Much: Using the trapezius too much will cause pain, especially when particular movements are repeated often. For example, lifting heavy items frequently will cause overuse of pain and even sports like swimming. 
  • Trauma: If too much force is put on the trapezius, then this can cause a great deal of pain, especially if the muscle is torn. 
  • Stress: The majority of people automatically tense their shoulder muscles and neck when they get very stressed. Unfortunately, this can lead to pain and soreness in the trapezius after awhile. 

    Trapezius Muscle Stretches

    It is important to do regular stretches to loosen the trapezius and ensure that it doesn't get tight. This will go a long way in reducing, relieving as well as preventing pain. 

    While stretching, it is imperative to avoid moving in a jerky fashion but rather use smooth movements. Be sure to hold each stretch for between 15 - 30 seconds. 

    Stretching should not cause any pain but only a little tension. As a result, be careful not to over-stretch or force it. We will now look at a couple of stretches for the trapezius that is quite effective. 

    The Hug

    To do this type of stretch:

    Stand up with a straight posture and use the right arm to hold onto the left shoulder. Then use the left arm to hold onto the right shoulder. Once in position, lean the head to the right side and use the right hand to press down on the left shoulder. This should be done for 20 seconds on each side. 

    The Cat

    To do the cat stretch, it is necessary to get on all fours on the ground like a cat. Then, once in position, breathe in and curl up the spine upwards while contracting the stomach muscles. This position should be held for about 15 seconds and then slowly breathe out while allowing the stomach to go towards the ground while maintaining an arch in the back.


    Ear To Shoulder

    To do this stretch, a chair will be needed. Sit on the chair and then bend the head towards the bottom left, as though attempting to get the left ear to touch the shoulder. Use the left hand on the head to very gently pull it towards this direction so that a deeper stretch is achieved. This position should be held for 20 seconds and then repeated for the next side. 


    Extra Remedies

    When it comes to treating trapezius pain and issues, it all depends on what is the underlying problem. One of the best ways to heal this muscle is to simply rest so that the muscle can naturally heal. 


    Home Remedies for relieving the Trapezius:

    Using Heat & Ice

    The use of heat and cold can greatly help to reduce pain and soreness. Ice n particular can assist with the reduction of inflammation in the muscle and reduce pain. Heat, on the other hand, can greatly help to enhance blood flow in the region which will help with healing as well as reduce muscle spasms. 

    Dry Needling

    This is a technique where fine needles are placed into the skin at particular points. By doing this, it can help to reduce pain and release muscle knots. 

    There was a study done in 2018 with 40 athletes that had shoulder pain. The results of this study showed that dry needling was extremely effective in reducing pain in the upper trapezius. 


    Next, kinesiology tape is also effective at reducing pain in the trapezius. This tape is placed over the area where there is pain and it works by reducing the pressure that is being placed on the muscle that is causing pain. 

    There was also a study done on 73 people who had pain in their trapezius. After using kinesiology tape, the participants found that it helped significantly with their pain after 24 hours. This was quite a limited study, however, it is a great solution to try that is very low risk and can help reduce some pain. 

    NSAID Usage

    The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs can be quite effective in reducing pain in the trapezius. Some common ones include acetaminophen and ibuprofen. However, not everyone can take NSAIDS, including pregnant women and people suffering from specific medical issues. So, be sure to talk to a pharmacist or doctor before taking any of these medications. 

    Seeing A Doctor

    Anyone that has reduced movement as well as ongoing pain, should go to a doctor or at least see a physical therapist. Most people can heal trapezius pain using the remedies provided above, especially using ice, rest and pain killers. 

    With that said, it is essential to see a doctor if any of the following is experienced:

    • a deformity or a depression that is seen in the trapezius which would mean a high probability of a muscle tear
    •  serious pain
    •  any pain that is persistent for longer than 1 week
    •  inability or serious issues moving the neck/shoulder
    • any indications that there is an infection such as fever or redness of the skin


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    Closing Thoughts

    The trapezius is quite susceptible to injury, just like any other muscle in the body. There are lots of reasons for these issues which include bad posture, pulling of the muscle, etc. 

    As a result, stretching is essential so that it can be loose and flexible. Typically speaking, if the pain in the trapezius does occur, it usually goes away using the remedies above. However, once they are ineffective, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible.

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