Having a tight and sore upper back is very common. Most people do not realize that this is the trapezius muscle, also known as the "traps" muscle. If you do a lot of typing, taking on the phone or spending time at your desk, you may have first hand experience as to what I am talking about.
The Trapezius muscle is huge. It encompases your neck, shoulder and upper back area- and it has 3 regions: upper fibers, middle fibers and lower fibers. Shaped like a trapezoid, this upper back and neck muscle is one of the largest in the body.
The trapezius muscle not only helps you to breathe, but it affects the motion of the scapula: elevation, adduction, abduction and depression (basically all your ranges of motion for the shoulder). So the next time you are reaching out for something, shrugging your shoulders, or turning to look at something- remember that the trapezius is involved. The trapezius muscle is activated when you laterally bend and rotate your head and neck - making the relationship with the neck very important. Everyday in our activities of daily living we are using the trapezius muscle. Sitting at a keyboard, driving, and sports such as tennis, baseball, and swimming all have active trapezius involvement.
You can stretch the trapezius muscle at home quite easily: Steps to stretch the right side of the trapezius
laterally bending your head to the left (left ear to left shoulder)
taking your left hand to the right side of your head/ear and pushing to the left.
Turn your head slightly right 3) Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, and repeat.
**make sure you are not slouching when you are doing this trap stretch; also, take deep breaths while you are stretching.
The trapezius muscle is commonly found to be stiff, tight and can be very painful. Besides doing regular stretches, you can get a portable tens unit to work muscle spasms. Using this in conjuction with the heat/cold therapy is a good idea. For acute conditions use ice, and for chronic conditions (a condition lasting for greater than 3 months), use heat. For the trapezius muscle use a hot cold pack that is 6x20 ( cervical pack )or 9x16 ( tri sectional pack ) in dimensions for good coverage. Finally, you can use topical pain relief creams for instant pain relief. One topical pain relief cream that you can use is called Biofreeze, which works similar to an icy hot. Another is Ibunex, which works similar to Ibuprofen, but is a topical cream that works quite effectively.
A sore and painful upper trapezius muscle is more common than you may think. Working at a desk job, or driving for long hours are activites that use the trapezius muscle can cause the muscle fibers to shorten, increasing the tightness- often described as sore, achy, tight, even burning. This strain to the trapezius muscle can be very annoying and painful. Other things that can cause muscle spasms in the trapezius include : lack of exercise, stress, poor diet, tension, and faulty ergonomics. Simply making changes to improve our posture while sitting can help to keep the trapezius musle in a relaxed, pain free state.
The trapezius muscle is one of the largest muscles in the body. It is responsible for so many actions that we use at every moment of our life. Taking the time to stretch, maybe even change the way to work, and most importantly to relax can make a big difference.