6 Causes of trapezius muscle pain
Trapezius or ‘trap’ muscle pain is often known as acute or severe pain that affects a number of 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, arms, and shoulder blade. There is a pair of trapezius muscles 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 of trapezius muscle pain include:
- Body posture: If bad posture is not corrected early, it may become permanent. Sitting or standing improperly may lead to trapezius muscle pain that may even radiate to the spine (spinal vertebrae) and support muscles. Maintaining awkward standing or sitting positions can lead to muscle pain that is felt in the trapezius muscle. This may also be referred to as a repetitive stress injury.
- Excessive stress: Being stressed may lead to tension in muscles that become tightened, particularly in the trapezius muscles. This is primarily caused by excess muscle contraction, leading to muscle soreness and pain. These symptoms may be also 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. As the connection between the muscles has been severed, pain, and a decreased range of movement are likely results.
- 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 (when the upper body is suddenly forced backward and forward) or direct injury to the head. Head being forcibly snapped backward then forwards 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.
Symptoms of trapezius muscle pain
Common symptoms of trapezius muscle pain include:
- Sore or aching sensation
- Neck pain/stiffness
- Shoulder pain/stiffness
- Arm weakness
- Tingling or numbness
- Posterior headaches
- Concentration difficulties
- Interscapular area pain
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Difficulty performing daily tasks that require arm movement
- Tenderness over the area of injury
- Warmth over the area
- Swelling of the affected area
- Muscle spasms
How do we treat pain in the trapezius muscle?
Physical therapy is the best way to treat the pain in the trapezius muscle. The treatment may vary depending on the extent of the trapezius muscle injury. It is best to consult a physiotherapist to know which exercise suits the body depending on age and health conditions.
- Pain medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Acetaminophen/Paracetamol and Ibuprofen may help decrease trapezius pain.
- Ice and heat application: Hot and cold therapy 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.