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The Truth About the Trapezius Muscle – Part 1: Upper Traps

Posted Jul 21 2010 11:03am

Talk to most health, fitness or rehabilitation professionals about the upper traps and they’re almost sure to blame the upper traps as a key cause of all sorts of postural and/or movement dysfunctions. Unfortunately, everything we “know” about the upper traps may be wrong.

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If you think you know what the Upper Trapezius muscle does and how it effects our function – You may want to think again because today’s post might just rock your world!

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The TRUTH About The Trapezius!

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Much of what I’ve been learning lately about the Upper Traps contradicts what’s said in most anatomy texts. That said, Mark Comerd B.Phty. MCSP MAPA likes to mention “most anatomy texts are at least 25yrs out of date”.

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So, I’ve been compiling some notes on the literature and research from folks like to provide you here at NickTumminello.com, with a more up-to-date view of the upper traps. Then, I came across an amazing article written by Dr. Warren Hammer, MS, DC, DABCO , entitled  “The Upper Trapezius DOES NOT Elevate the Shoulder” . Dr. Warren’s article sums up much of what I was preparing to write myself. So, I’ve provided you Dr. Warren’s eye-opening article below.

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I warn you, this article goes deep into the technical aspects of anatomy and physiology. You may have to read it a few times to fully understand everything. At the end of the article, I will provide some additional comments of my own to help you better understand this new view of the Trapezius muscle.

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The Upper Trapezius DOES NOT Elevate the Shoulder

By Warren Hammer, MS, DC, DABCO

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How could the claim in my title be valid? Most anatomy texts state that the upper trapezius (UT) does elevate the shoulder.1-3 What about soft tissue techniques, such as postisometric relaxation or postfacilitation stretch? Should we now change our method of treating this muscle? Should we change the way we interpret the force coupling of the scapular? If you believe the contents of an excellent article, “Anatomy and Actions of the Trapezius Muscle,” by Johnson and Bogduk, et al .,4 the answer is a resounding yes! The authors state that the texts do not agree with each other and “none provides reliable data on point-to-point attachments of the trapezius at a detail suitable for biomechanical modeling.” They also maintain that little attention has been paid to the lines of actions of the trapezius fibers. (Note – Nikolai Bogduk is one of the worlds best human anatomists and researchers with over 100 published research studies and multiple books .)


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