Feb 242011
Trapezius Muscle highlighted on muscle diagram

Trapezius Muscle - Click for large image

What pain and symptoms are associated with the trapezius?

  • Headache in the temple area
  • Pain in the jaw that travels down into the neck and over behind the ear
  • Pain behind one eye
  • Tension headache
  • Contributes to dizziness
  • Pain at the base of the skull
  • Stiff neck
  • Ache or burning sensation in the middle of the back
  • Pain or tingling during raising or lowering the arms

Where is the trapezius muscle located?

The trapezius covers a large portion of the back of the neck, back of the shoulder and upper to mid back. It connects the skull, neck vertebra, upper and mid back vertebra to the shoulder blade and joint of the shoulder.

What movements does the trapezius muscle control?

  • Raises and lowers shoulders – shrugging your shoulders
  • Lifts and lowers the arms
  • Tilting head side to side
  • Turning head side to side
  • Straightening and bending neck back

Activities that cause  pain and symptoms in the trapezius:

  • Whiplash
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Working with your arms out in front of you (computer, playing the piano, driving)
  • Keeping your shoulders rolled forward or pulled up
  • Carrying a heavy purse or back pack on one shoulder
  • Large breasts

How Can Massage Therapy Relieve Pain and Symptoms Caused By The Trapezius?

Almost everyone has a tight and sore trapezius muscle. When we are stressed, we tend to drop our heads and tense and elevate the shoulders which strain the trapezius. The good news is the traps respond to therapeutic massage very well. By releasing trigger points and elongating the muscle, massage can help alleviate many of the symptoms and pain associated with trapezius and other neck and shoulder muscles.

Interesting facts about the Trapezius:

The trapezius is arguably the most massaged muscle on the human body. When a friend massages your neck and shoulders it is the trapezius muscle that they are usually massaging.

Clinical diagnoses to which this muscle symptoms may contribute: Tension headaches, Eye strain, Acceleration/Deceleration injury (whiplash), Stingers or burners, Sprain/Strain injury, Shoulder pointer, Adhesive capsulitis (Frozen shoulder), Spasmodic torticollis (Wryneck syndrome), Temporomandibular disorder, Thoracic outlet syndrome, Bursitis, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Osteoporosis

Trapezius Trigger Point Muscle Pain Pattern

Trapezius Trigger Point Muscle Pain Pattern - Click for large image

Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the trapezius:

  • Pectoralis Major and Minor
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Splenius Capitis
  • Semispinalis Capitis
  • Rhomboids Major and Minor
  • Levator Scapulae

Upper part: External occipital proturberance, medial third of the superior nuchal line, the ligamentum nuchae,  and the spinous process of C7
Medial Part: Spinous processes of T1 to T5.
Lower Part: Spinous processes of T6 to T12
Upper Part: Lateral third of the clavicle and the medial aspect of the acromion process of the scapula
Middle Part: Medial edge of the superior surface of the acromion process of the scapula and the superior edge of the scapular spine.
Lower Part: Tubercles of the apex of the scapular spine
Upper Part: Upward rotation of the scapula, elevation of the scapula
Middle Part:
Retraction of the scapula
Lower Part:
Upper rotation of the scapula, depression of the scapula
Innervation: Spinal Accessory Cranial XI , Ventral Rami C2-C4

Primary Actions: Upper Fibers

1. Upward rotation of the scapula

  • Agonists: Serratus Anterior (lower fibers), Trapezius (lower fibers)
  • Antagonists: Levator Scapulae, Serratus Anterior (upper fibers), Rhomboids Major and Minor, Pectoralis Minor

Stabilizer: Trapezius (lower fibers)

2. Elevation of scapula

  • Angonists: Levator Scapulae
  • Antagonists: Serratus Anterior (lower fibers), Trapezius (lower fibers), Pectoralis Minor

Secondary Actions:

1. Assists with elevation of the cervical spine (distal attachment fixed, acting bilaterally)

  • Agonists: Sternocleidomastoid, Rectus Capitis Posterior Major and  Minor, Obliquus Capitis Superior, Splenius Cervicis, Splenius Capitis, Ilocostalis Cervicis, Longissimus Cervicis, Longissimus Capitis, Spinalis Cervicis, Spinalis Capitis, Semispinalis Cervicis, Semispinalis Capitis
  • Antagonists: Longus Colli, Longus Capitis, Scalenus Anterior, Sternocleidomastoid

2. Assists with lateral flexion of the cervical spine (distal attachment fixed, acting unilaterally)

  • Agonists: Longus Colli, Rectus Capitis Lateralis, Scalenus Anterior,  Scalenus Medius, Scalenus Posterior, Sternocleidomastoid,  Obliquus Capitis Superior, Splenius Cervicis, Splenius Capitis, Iliocostalis Cervicis, Longissimus Capitis
  • Antagonists: The same muscles as above but on the contralateral side

3. Assists with contralateral rotation of the head and cervical spine when acting unilaterally

  • Agonists: Semispinalis Capitis, Sternocleidomastoid
  • Antagonists: Semispinalis Capitis, Sternocleidomastoid on the opposite side of the neck.

Primary Actions: Middle Fibers

1. Retraction of scapula

  • Agonists: Rhomboid Major and Minor
  • Antagonists: Serratus Anterior, Pectoralis Minor

Primary Actions: Lower  Fibers

1. Upward rotation of the scapula

  • Agonists: Trapezius (upper fibers) Serratus Anterior (lower fibers)
  • Antagonists: Serratus Anterior (upper fibers), Rhomboid Major and Minor, Levator Scapulae

Stabilizer: Trapezius (middle fibers)

2. Depression of the scapula

  • Agonists: Serratus Anterior (lower fibers), Pectoralis Minor
  • Antagonists: Trapezius (upper fibers), Levator Scapulae

Satellite Trigger Points: Temporalis, Masseter, Splenius Cervis, Semispinalis, Levator Scapulae, Rhomboids, Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, Latissimus Dorsi, Supraspinatus

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