This muscle has upper, middle and lower fibers...Many people suffer from upper back stiffness and soreness in the neck. Often the culprit is the trapezius muscle- which as upper, middle and lower fibers. This muscle is so large that it covers part of the neck, and upper back area. The Right and left trapezius come together to resemble a trapezium shape. This large superficial muscle extends from the occipital bone (at the top of the neck) to the lower thoracic vertebrae and laterally to the spine of the scapula also known as the shoulder blade. Innervation of this muscle comes from a cranial nerve (#11) and from cervical spinal nerves. This is one of the reasons why neck pain and upper back pain is related, as nerves from the neck supply the trapezium muscle.
The trapezius muscle is commonly found to be stiff, tight and can be very painful. Often times you may notice that you have "knots"- sometimes pressing on these knots can send pain up to your neck and head.
What is the Function of the Trapezius Muscle?
What exactly does the trapezius muscle do?The function of the trapezius muscle in the body is very important. The trapezius muscle has not only helps you to breathe, but it affects the motion of the scapula (see image on the right): elevation, adduction, abduction and depression (basically all your ranges of motion for the shoulder). So the next time you are reaching out for something, shrugging your shoulders, or turning to look at something- remember that the trapezius muscle is involved. The trapezius muscle is activated when you laterally bend and rotate your head and neck- making the relationship with the neck very important. Everyday in activities of daily living we are using the trapezius muscle. Sitting at a keyboard, driving,studying and sports such as tennis, baseball, and swimming all have active trapezius involvement. With computers being used by more of the population these days, it is no wonder that more people are suffering from upper back stiffness, and tightness.
What Other Things Can I do to get rid of this upper back stiffness and tightness?
Stretch the Trapezius at Home By Yourself
You can do this Stretch at Home EasilyStep by step directions on how to stretch the left trapezius muscle.
- Start by laterally bending your head to the right (right ear to right shoulder)
- Taking your right hand to the left side of your head/ear and pushing to the right.
- Turn your head slightly left
- Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, and repeat.
Keep the Trapezius Muscle Strong by doing Strengthening exercises
The Trapezius is important in stabilizing the shoulder joint
The trapezius muscle is very important in keeping the shoulder stable. This video below shows you how to exercise the middle and lower trapezius muscles.
To strengthen the middle trapezius:
- Lie on your stomach, put your hands behind your neck. Squeeze the shoulder blades back together and lift off the elbows from the table. Do 15-20 reps. Squeeze, lift and relax.
- To strengthen the lower trapezius: Lie on your stomach again. This time bring your arms out with thumbs up. Squeeze the shoulder blades together again, lifting the forearms off of the table. Do 15-20 reps. Squeeze, lift and relax.
Check out Dr. Yoo's Video below for a demonstration
Use T.e.n.s to Help with Muscle Spasm,and Trigger points
Easily work on pain relief and muscle tightness
Besides doing regular stretches as I have described above, you can get a portable tens unit to work out muscle spasms. Tens stands for "Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation". These pocket size units are usually battery operated. They will send electrical impulses to the muscle fibers of the trapezius to block pain signals. These electrical currents produced by a tens unit are mild and can prevent pain messages from being transmitted to the brain. They have also been shown to increase the level of endorphins (natural pain killers produced by the brain). Check with your Doctor to see if a Tens Unit will help you.
Lotions Potions Creams Gels: Can they Help for Muscle Spasm?
YES: Use these to Work on Trigger Points, Get Pain Relief.You can use topical pain relief creams for instant pain relief. One topical pain relief cream that you can use is called Biofreeze, which works similar to an icy hot - but it is a lot more effective.
Take Advantage of Using Hot and Cold Therapy for Pain Relief
Keep a hot and cold pack close by - it can easily take pain away from overuseUsing a tens unit in addition to Hot or Cold Therapy can be beneficial. In general, for acute conditions use ice, and for chronic conditions (a condition lasting for greater than 3 months), use heat. For the trapezius muscle use a hot cold pack that is of dimensions 6x20 (cervical pack) or 9x16 (tri sectional pack) for good coverage of the upper back and neck.
Massage Can be Beneficial as Well
Work out the fibers of the trap muscleTo work out muscle spasms, massage therapy will be helpful as well. At home you can use a home massage unit directly on the muscle ;for a few minutes everyday to relax your muscles. Massage can also increase blood supply and nutrition to the muscle.
Make Simple Changes for Back Health...
Making simple changes to improve our posture while sitting can help to keep the trapezius musle in a relaxed state. Getting regular chiropractic adjustments, taking frequent breaks, drinking more water and stretching all play a positive role in keeping the trapezius muscle pain free and relaxed.
Additional Reading Resources:
- The Dreaded Hunchback - How to Correct That Area of Your Upper Back That Pops Out and Looks Funny!
- What to do for a stiff neck
- Getting the Right Pillow for the Best Sleep Possible
- Exercises for the Neck
- Stretching Your Neck for Pain Relief