What Are the Causes of Trapezius Muscle Pain?

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The muscles in the upper back that tighten most frequently are called the Trapezius muscle. Trapezius muscle is used to help support the neck and allow the side ways movement of the head as well as shoulder movement. Knowing the causes of trapezius muscle

The muscles in the upper back that tighten most frequently are called the Trapezius muscle. Trapezius muscle is used to help support the neck and allow the side ways movement of the head as well as shoulder movement. Knowing the causes of trapezius muscle pain can help us prevent from future discomforts relating to upper back areas.

The upper back muscles are a common site of tension, when these muscles become tight they can cause neck pain and stiffness as much as upper back pain. They can also be a sign that lower back pain is increasing. Trapezius muscle pain often feels like an aching or burning sensation between the shoulder blades, but it may also extend from the base of the skull.

The trapezius muscle is divided into 3 areas:

  1. Upper fibers
  2. Middle fibers
  3. Lower fibers.

The significance of this division lies in the variety of functions performed by this muscle.

Trap pain is classic stress pain. Your shoulders ache, your neck hurts and it is often deep and achy. You may have a headache, especially in the temples or behind your eyes or at the base of your skull. You may feel burning between your shoulder blades after sitting at your computer without elbow support.

Causes of trapezius muscle pain:

Although trapezius muscle pain can occur because of stress and tension, exercise, repetitive motion and even daily living can affect the health of the trapezius and cause it to become painful or lock up.

Trapezius muscle pain is common for those who work at a desk or at a computer, especially for those who have poor posture and work in an area that is not ergonomically designed. The main three cause of trapezius muscle pain are:

  1. Stress - the saying stress rides on your shoulders is true. Stress allows these muscles to tighten and hence pain occurs.
  2. Posture - With added strain from working at a keyboard, or even lifting and carrying objects, or even prolonged standing at a counter ... all these create postural changes which tighten these muscles. Poor posture due to bending forward while sitting or standing or driving for long hours causes trapezius muscle strain and prevents the muscle from functioning properly         
  3. Lower Back pain - the lower back and upper back are interconnected. If the lower back is imbalanced then the upper back also distorts. This allows the muscles to tighten and hence upper back muscle pain occurs.

The causes above are the most common causes. There are numerous others from general health, emotional health and structural health issues. Notice how you can get tight muscles when you have a flu or cold. Rib injuries affect these areas also. Other cause of trapezius muscle pain may be:

  • Sleeping in the wrong position by lying on the back or stomach while the head is held on one side throughout the night can lead to pain in this muscle in the morning.
  • Carrying a heavy purse or backpack on the shoulders can lead to trapezius muscle pain.
  • Repetitive use of the muscles for holding the phone in between the head and ear or playing instruments like violin or piano causes injury to the muscles and triggers these painful symptoms.
  • Women tend to suffer from trapezius muscle pain due to tightly fitted bra straps. Breastfeeding mothers get this problem if they feed their baby by holding the baby in the arms
  • Holding a phone between your ear and shoulder. Get a headset.
  • Breastfeeding a baby with your shoulders hunched forward and the weight of the baby in your arms can cause trapezius muscle pain. Check your posture and bring your shoulders back. Do side-lying whenever possible. Support the baby on a pillow on your lap. Remind yourself to take a small break from gazing at your sweetie once in a while, to bring your head up and relax your shoulders.
  • Sleeping on your back or stomach with your head turned to one side. Change your sleeping position (easier said than done).
  • Any position where you head is turned to one side for a long time. Are you a teacher and you turn to look at the student next to you? Do you turn to see your computer screen?          
  • Playing violin, piano, backpacking, bike riding, or other activities which heavily rely on the trapezius muscles. Remember to stretch. Watch your posture. Take a break when you need your trap muscles to recover. 

You can prevent and relieve pain in your trapezius muscles by exercising them. Exercise brings circulation to the muscles, and it relaxes them. Most importantly, if done correctly exercise will strengthen supporting muscles that support good posture. You can relieve a lot of muscle strain by using many muscles groups in a relaxed with, without overworking your traps.

The trapezius muscles are very likely to have tender knots or trigger points. Pressing on these points can help release the muscle and ease the pain from its strain. Remember to sit up straight, lower your shoulders and bring your head back. This relieves strain on the trapezius. You can also try some online yoga to improve your posture.

Useful links:

* How To Treat Inflamed or Tear Trapezius Muscle?

* Effective Low Back Pain Treatment with Acupressure


Posted on Sep 17, 2011
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