Aptly named for its shape the Trapezius is a master of referred pain, leading you to believe the problem is in your temples and ears when actually the problem lies in your upper shoulders!
Trapezius is a broad flat muscle that covers the back of the neck and most of the upper and middle back.
Trigger points in the upper fibres refer pain to the temples, angle of the jaw, down the neck behind the ear, deep behind the eye, and to the back of the head.
Unlike SCM which I spoke about in my last blog, Trapezius will actually ache over the whole muscle as well, we often feel a general ache over the tops of our shoulder and up the back of our neck.
What is really interesting about the function of this muscle is that it actually works as three separate parts AND with opposing actions. The upper fibres of the muscle shrug our shoulders to our ears and extend the head back. The middle and lower fibres pull in the opposite direction, drawing our shoulder blades downward and inward towards our spine.
This is a unique feature of trapezius and is why it so commonly becomes imbalanced.
The body is constructed for maximum efficiency – so when one muscle contacts (Bicep for example), it’s opposing muscle (the tricep) is inhibited or becomes relaxed – this means that the contracted muscle has no opposing force and is able to contract to it’s maximum.
The same happens here in the different fibres of trapezius. The fatal flaw here is what tends to happen is that if one muscle is being used a lot more than it’s opposing then it’s a quick path to hypertension in the overused muscle and weakness in the muscle that is always relaxing – sometimes leading to complete inhibition of the muscle where it stops working all together.
What causes imbalance of the Trapezius?
Posture – Our every day seated posture where our head is slightly forward of our shoulders and our shoulders roll forward slightly while we work – this causes lengthening of the middle and lower fibres and tightening of the upper trapezius.
Stress! – A common posture we take on when stressed is to bring our shoulders to our ears – causing contraction of our upper trapezius and inhibition of the lower fibres. It is proven that there is a direct connection between mental and emotional stress and muscular contraction; in practice I see this most commonly in the trapezius muscle
Handbags – Yes ladies – clear out some of your handbag contents as it could be detrimental to your health. A function of upper trapezius is to stabilize the shoulder in position when a downward weight or force is applied. You don’t need that massive makeup bag in there – you are all beautiful as you are, especially when your neck is long and shoulders open and elegant.
How to treat?
Stretching – Hold your left hand with your right behind your back – gently pull down on the left hand as you take your right ear to your right shoulder. Roll your head forwad and back a little until you find that delicious stretch – you may even feel the trigger point acting up and referring to one of the areas mentioned above. If so, hold that position, breath fully and smoothly and focus on letting go through that area, breath here until the pain fades and then relax and repeat up to 3 times.
Massage – the most effective treatment I find for trigger points in upper trapezius is to pinch that lump of muscle all the way along the tops of your shoulders, breathing calmly at each point and pausing at any referrals as above. You may even like to incorporate a little stretch as you pinch a trigger point, this is very effective in helping that bundle of contacted tissue to let go and leave you alone.
See a masseuse – like me
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