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How Do You Relieve Trapezius Pain?

Reviewed on 3/25/2021

Trapezius pain relief

Getting plenty of rest and applying warm compresses are the best ways to relieve trapezius pain. It is also advised to consult a physiotherapist for persistent and recurrent pain.
Getting plenty of rest and applying warm compresses are the best ways to relieve trapezius pain. It is also advised to consult a physiotherapist for persistent and recurrent pain.

Getting plenty of rest and applying warm compresses are the best ways to relieve trapezius pain. It is also advised to consult a physiotherapist for persistent and recurrent pain. They can suggest therapy depending on your age and health conditions. To regain/maintain good posture, your neck needs the support of the neck, shoulder and trunk musculature. Often, the pain in the trapezius muscle is a result of overuse, poor posture, lack of exercise and vitamin D deficiency.

The physiotherapist may use ultrasonic heat, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or infrared heat to relieve extreme trapezius spasms or pain. Exercises and stretches are reserved to strengthen the muscle and prevent further recurrences.

The exercises include active and passive exercises. Your physiotherapists will advise you regarding the same.

Doing simple exercises every day will build that essential support. The other ways may include

  • Relaxation: To self-massage, gently rub your neck with your fingers for several minutes. Alternatively, moderate heat can be applied for 10 to 15 minutes by taking a warm shower, using a moist warm towel or using a heating pad.
  • Pain medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen may help decrease trapezius pain.
  • Ice and heat application: Alternate application of hot and cold can reduce trapezius discomfort by controlling inflammation and pain.
  • Dry needling: This technique involves inserting thin needles into the skin. It is used to treat trigger point pain in the trapezius region.
  • Taping: Elastic tape is placed over the painful trapezius area to relieve pressure on the muscle.
  • Ergonomics: An ergonomic evaluation may help with your trapezius pain. For example, a workstation with forearm support can help a person maintain a neutral and relaxed shoulder posture, which will reduce the activation of the trapezius muscle.
  • Muscle relaxants: These are available with a prescription to reduce the pain and spasm in the muscle.

Prevention

  • Maintain proper postural alignment throughout the day to decrease any strain created on your neck. Place your work at eye level to avoid awkward postures.
  • Encourage pain-free movement. After an injury, your neck will become stiff. Start gentle movements as soon as possible. This will help to restore full range of motion, reduce pain from swelling and muscle spasms and prevent your muscles from becoming weak.
  • Take frequent breaks (every 30 minutes) and do stretching and range of motion exercises.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress. Use a thin pillow to lie on your back or a thick pillow to lie on your side. This will keep your neck in alignment with your spine. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Exercises that help strengthen the upper body with or without weights and resistance bands will be helpful in the long run.
  • Assessment of calcium and vitamin D levels in case of suspected deficiency is a must.

What causes pain in the trapezius muscle?

Trapezius muscle pain is often known as acute or severe pain that affects several small muscles in the upper back and neck. The trapezius is a flat, triangular muscle that extends from the back of the head to the neck. It is located very close to the skin. This large, strong muscle has many actions, including the movement of the neck and shoulder blade. There is a pair of trapezius muscles commonly called the traps present in the human body. One trap muscle is located on either side of the neck. Together, they form a diamond-shaped (trapezoid) muscle that covers the upper back, shoulders and neck. The causes include

  • Body posture: If bad posture is not corrected early on, it may become permanent. Sitting or standing improperly may lead to trapezius muscle pain that may even radiate to spinal vertebrae and support muscles. Maintaining awkward standing or sitting positions can lead to muscle pain felt in the trapezius muscle. This may also be referred to as a repetitive stress injury.
  • Excessive stress: Being stressed out may lead to tension in muscles. Muscles become tightened, particularly trapezius muscles. This is primarily caused by excess muscle contraction, leading to muscle soreness and pain. These symptoms may also be compounded by mental strain and anxiety that often accompany stressful periods.
  • Muscle injury or pulled muscles: This occurs when a muscle has been moved too far and too quickly, resulting in injury. Because the connection between the muscles has been severed, pain and a decreased range of movement is a likely result.
  • Pressure: Heavy or tight pressure on the trapezius causing pressure on the muscle can lead to pain. This can be induced by wearing heavy backpacks, shoulder bags or even tight bra straps.
  • Accidental or severe injury: Trapezius muscle pain can occur due to acute injuries, such as whiplash or direct injury to the head. The head being forcibly snapped backward then forward strains the trapezius muscle.
  • Overuse: Repetitive activities, such as lifting heavy objects or swimming, can lead to trapezius pain. People who perform monotonous work with the neck and shoulder muscles are at a high risk of trapezius pain. Examples include nurses who lift and turn patients, construction workers who carry heavy objects and retail workers who lift heavy boxes and bags.

Common symptoms of pain in the trapezius muscle include

  • Sore or aching sensation
  • Neck pain/stiffness
  • Shoulder pain/stiffness
  • Arm weakness
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Posterior headaches
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Interscapular area pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks that require arm movements
  • Tenderness over the area of injury
  • Warmth over the area
  • Swelling of the affected area
  • Muscle spasms

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References
Medscape Medical Reference

UC Berkeley University Health Services


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