Things That Can Cause Trapezius Muscle Pain
Trapezius muscle pain is usually not too difficult to diagnose and treat since the trapezius is a fairly large and active muscle. It is in fact two muscles, consisting of an upper trapezius and a lower trapezius. For the purposes of this discussion however, the trapezius will be treated as if it were a single, large muscle. Knowing something of the various functions the trapezius performs can also at times help to determine what trapezius muscle pain or soreness is due to.
Shoulder Blades And Neck - The trapezius muscle is a large, flat muscle that covers the upper back and the back of the neck. Its primary function is to move the neck and the shoulder blades. The trapezius muscle is the muscle that is at work when we move one or both shoulder blades towards the spine. If you raise an arm, and twist it so that the underside of the arm faces up, while feeling the shoulder blade on the same side with your other hand, you can feel your trapezius muscle working. Moving either shoulder also works the trapezius muscle.
Breathing - The trapezius muscle also helps us move our head and neck backwards, rotate the neck, and tilt or bend the neck to one side or the other. The trapezius also works with the chest muscles to help us breathe. You'll note you can inhale deeply and more fully by allowing the trapezius muscle to pull the shoulder blades together, lifting the rib cage. The diaphragm is by far the most powerful muscle used in breathing, but the muscles in the rib cage and the trapezius also play a role.
While the trapezius does contribute to breathing, its contribution isn't enough to cause it to become overworked, so we can ignore breathing as a cause of trapezius muscle pain or soreness. On the other hand, the way we move or hold our neck or our shoulders can be a cause of pain or soreness. When we hold our neck in the same position for too long at a time, which can be the case when working at the computer, the trapezius can become sore, and even quite painful. Some call it neck pain, some call it upper back pain, but it's really a combination of both, but centered in the trapezius.
Tightness And Tension - If you begin taking yoga classes, you'll soon discover that a great deal of attention is placed on moving the shoulders and the neck in a manner which exercises the trapezius, thereby loosening the muscle and relieving tension. When we get nervous, or feel apprehensive or uptight about something, the trapezius muscle itself can get a little uptight, and after a period of time can become sore. That's why there are few things more comforting than an upper back massage. Massaging the upper part of the trapezius is something one can do, either with the hands, or by rolling the upper back against a firm surface. Lying on your back on a tennis ball will do the job, although a slightly larger ball, such as a softball, may be a little more comfortable.
Incorrect posture can also cause trapezius muscle pain, as can holding the upper part of the body in an awkward position for a lengthy period of time. You can also get the muscle in a mood to complain by wearing a heavy backpack, or carrying a heavy purse that is slung over one shoulder. The constant pressure sooner or later will cause pain or discomfort.
The various causes of pain or soreness mentioned above are those which we encounter fairly often. These causes are for the most part preventable once we know what they are and take the appropriate countermeasures, such as improving our posture, adjusting the height of our computer screen, or carrying a lighter purse or backpack. Occasional massaging of the upper back muscles can help keep the trapezius muscle loose. While there is not a direct connection between the facial muscles and the trapezius, it is sometimes said that a frown can make the trapezius tight, while a smile will keep it loose.
Pulled Muscle - The other cause of trapezius muscle pain, and one that is not always preventable, is trauma. As is the case with other major muscle groups, a pull or strain in the trapezius can occur if one moves too quickly or forcefully without having first warmed the muscle up. A pulled trapezius muscle is not a lot of fun. It's difficult to treat, since we can't have the upper body in a cast and still breathe normally. One has to give the muscle plenty of rest and avoid using it more than necessary, something that's not easy to do. Ibuprofen is recommended to relieve pain, and reduce or lessen the chances of swelling should a muscle pull be particularly severe. Cold packs can help too, especially just after the muscle pull has occurred. Be kind to your trapezius muscles by giving them plenty of light stretching exercises and an occasional gentle message, by watching your posture, and by lessening the weight of your shoulder purse or backpack. Your trapezius muscles should then remain pain free.