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Pain in the Upper Trapezius Muscle

Posted Oct 06 2009 10:01pm
Trigger points within muscles such as the Trapezius can be a major point of pain. What is a “trigger point?” A trigger point is a point of pain that can be easily irritated. It is often seen in tight muscles. Pressing on a trigger point can be very painful and it can cause referred pain - or pain in other areas of the body. One of the most common muscles in the body to have trigger points is the trapezius, especially the upper part of the muscle (the upper trapezius). These trigger points can be caused in the trapezius from poor posture, a tight bra strap, carrying a heavy backpack and holding your head and neck in one position for a long time. For example, holding your head in rotation or a side-bending position. Also having trigger points in the upper trapezius is a major source of tension headaches. As I mentioned above, trigger points can also cause referral patterns- in the upper trapezius, a trigger point can refer pain along the back of the neck and into the jaw area. You may have pain along the side of the head, in the temples, and behind your eyes.

Trapezius trigger points


To treat trigger points in the upper trapezius you can do home stretches. So, for example, let’s say you have painful trigger points in the left trapezius muscle. Take your left hand and place it lightly over your right ear. Your arm should be over your head. Now bend your left ear to your left shoulder, bend your head forward, and now turn your head to the right. Hold this stretch for 10-15 seconds.

Also, having good neck posture while sitting is very important. If you work at a computer constantly, check your neck posture. Change up the ergonomics of your station to make it a pain free zone. Also, you can use an electrotherapy (aka tens unit) unit at home. Using heat and ice can also provide a lot of relief. Getting adjusted by a chiropractor can be beneficial to getting rid of the painful trigger points, and increasing your range of motion in the neck. Finally using a good support neck pillow at night will be helpful as well.

Source: Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction, Janet G. Travell and David G. Simons
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