The word trapezius comes from the Greek word for a small table, a reflection of the muscle's relative flatness and four-cornered shape. I like to refer to it as the butterfly muscle.
Many people don't realize that the trapezius covers most of the upper half of the back, extending upward to cover the central part of the back and neck, finally attaching into base of the skull. Not only is this a large muscle but it lays superficial (on top) to deeper back muscles.
The trapezius helps support the weight of the head and neck when you bend head forward or to the side. It functions mainly to move the shoulder. It also supports the weight of the shoulders and must contract strongly to rotate the shoulder blade every time you raise your arm.
Trigger points tend to develop in the trapezius when they are in a state of constant contraction, and/or are too weak to counteract the strong pulling in the pectorals in front of body. A primary source of headaches and neck pain pain arises from trapezius trigger points!
Most people experience trigger points in the upper part of the trapezius. Their effects often cause tension headaches and possibly even dizziness. More importantly, upper trapezius trigger points are capable of inducing satellite trigger points in muscles of the jaw and temple, making it an indirect cause of jaw pain and toothache.
Mid-trapezius trigger points are often a major source of pain at the base of your skull, which you may feel as a headache or sore neck. When neck massage feels good but doesn't get rid of the pain, the problem may be trapezius-related.
Heading down to the lower traps we reach middle back area. If you've ever felt a nagging ache or burning pain in the middle back, trigger points here may be responsible. This is also a common area for weakness, and although trigger points here are a long ways away from the neck, it's one of the many causes of astiff neck. Also, If you have ever noticed someone with "winged" shoulder blades that tend to stick out in back, it is due to weakness in the lower trapezius muscles and serratus.
Some main causes of trigger points in the trapezius:
- Faulty Posture - eg. slumping while seated.
- Shortened Pectoralis Muscles -indicated by rounding of the shoulders.
- Emotional Tension or any activity which keeps your shoulders raised.
- Arms held out in front of you for extended lengths of time.
- Heavy-breasted women may be especially vulnerable, or those carrying heavy backpacks & purses.
Strengthening the lower traps can help counteract the ill effects of poor posture, including the long hours spent sitting in front of computer. However, it also requires stretching various anterior muscle groups on opposing side of body, to retrain postural muscles.
At Essential Medical Massage, we will guide you through the process of improving posture by demonstrating stretches and strengthening for the trapezius muscle and other affected postural muscles.
You do not have to suffer from headaches, neck tension & pain, TMJ pain, or back pain. Perhaps the source may be trapezius-related!
Come on in and let us find out!
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