The trapezius muscle is a large, triangular muscle that extends from the base of the skull to the lower thoracic spine and across the shoulder blades. It is responsible for moving and stabilizing the shoulder blades and neck, and it also plays a role in maintaining good posture.
The trapezius muscle has three main sections: the upper, middle, and lower trapezius. The upper trapezius is responsible for elevating the shoulder blades and rotating them inward. The middle trapezius helps to retract the shoulder blades and rotate them outward. The lower trapezius helps to depress the shoulder blades and rotate them inward.
Injuries to the trapezius muscle can result from overuse, strain, or trauma. Symptoms of a trapezius muscle injury may include pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving the shoulder blades or neck. Treatment may include rest, physical therapy, and medication.
Function of the Trapezius Muscle
The trapezius muscle has several important functions, including:
- Moving the shoulder blades: The trapezius muscle is responsible for moving the shoulder blades, also known as the scapulae. It can elevate, retract, and rotate the shoulder blades, depending on which section of the muscle is contracting.
- Stabilizing the shoulder blades: In addition to moving the shoulder blades, the trapezius muscle also helps to stabilize them in place. This is important for maintaining good posture and for performing activities that require the use of the arms and hands.
- Supporting the neck: The trapezius muscle helps to support the neck and keep it in a neutral position. It can also rotate the head to the side.
- Facilitating breathing: The trapezius muscle plays a role in facilitating breathing by assisting in the expansion of the rib cage during inhalation.
In addition to these functions, the trapezius muscle may also be used to help hold objects, such as when carrying a heavy suitcase or bag. It may also be used to help support the body during activities such as push-ups or other exercises that involve the upper body.
Common Issues with a Trapezius Muscle
There are several common issues that can affect the trapezius muscle, including:
- Strain: Strain is a common injury to the trapezius muscle that occurs when the muscle is stretched or torn. It can be caused by overuse, improper technique, or sudden trauma. Symptoms of a trapezius muscle strain may include pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving the shoulder blades or neck.
- Tension headaches: Tension headaches are a common type of headache that may be caused by muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, including the trapezius muscle. Tension headaches may cause a feeling of pressure or tightness in the head, neck, and shoulders, and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
- Poor posture: Poor posture can put additional strain on the trapezius muscle, leading to muscle tension and pain. Poor posture may be caused by a variety of factors, including poor ergonomics, sitting or standing for long periods of time, or carrying excess weight.
- Myofascial pain syndrome: Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder that affects the fascia, a layer of connective tissue that surrounds the muscles. It can cause muscle tenderness, pain, and stiffness, and may affect the trapezius muscle.
- Frozen shoulder: Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. It can also cause muscle tension and pain in the surrounding muscles, including the trapezius.
Treatment for issues with the trapezius muscle may include rest, physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes to address the underlying cause of the problem.
How to stretch your Trapezius Muscle
Here are a few stretches that can help to stretch and relieve tension in the trapezius muscle:
- Neck tilt stretch: Sit or stand with good posture and slowly tilt your head to the right, bringing your right ear towards your right shoulder. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the left side.
- Shoulder blade squeeze: Sit or stand with good posture and squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you are trying to touch them in the middle of your back. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat several times.
- Chest and shoulder stretch: Stand with your arms behind your back, palms facing out. Lift your arms up towards the sky, keeping your elbows straight. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then release.
- Upper trapezius stretch: Sit or stand with good posture and place your left hand on the top of your head. Slowly tilt your head to the right, bringing your right ear towards your right shoulder. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the left side.
It is important to stretch gently and never force your body into a position that feels uncomfortable or painful. If you experience any pain or discomfort while stretching, stop immediately and consult a healthcare provider.
How to Rehab your Trapezius Muscle
Here are a few steps you can take to rehabilitate your trapezius muscle:
- Rest: Rest is an important part of the recovery process for any muscle injury. Avoid activities that strain or use the muscle, and take breaks as needed to allow the muscle to heal.
- Ice: Applying ice to the affected muscle can help reduce swelling and inflammation. Use an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel, and apply it to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
- Heat: After a few days of icing, you can try applying heat to the affected muscle to help improve blood flow and promote healing. Use a heating pad or warm pack, and apply it to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Stretching: Stretching can help to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension. Gently stretch the affected muscle a few times a day, using the stretches described above or others that feel comfortable for you.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy can be an effective way to rehabilitate a muscle injury and improve strength and mobility. A physical therapist can design a customized treatment plan that may include stretches, exercises, and other therapies to help you recover.
- Medication: Your healthcare provider may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medication to help manage pain and inflammation. Follow their instructions for taking the medication as directed.
It is important to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for any muscle injury. They can help you determine the best course of action for your specific needs.