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Trapezius Muscle: Stiff Neck, Headache, Eye, Jaw, Pain

Pain patterns associated with the trapezius muscle.

Headaches, stiff neck, eye and jaw pain as well as aching and tingling in the back and arms may indicate trapezius muscle dysfunction.

  • 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?

  • Pulls the shoulders back and the shoulder blades toward the spine
  • Raises and lowers shoulders – shrugging your shoulders
  • Lifts and lowers the arms to the front of the body
  • Straightening and bending neck back
  • Helps to tilt the head side to side
  • Helps to turn head side to side

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 backpack on one shoulder
  • Large breasts

Interesting facts about the Trapezius Muscle:

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.

Trapezius muscle connects the neck, shoulder and upper back.

You use the trapezius muscle to raise and lower your shoulders, lift and lower your arms, tilt your head side to side, turn your head side to side, and straighten your neck.

Clinical diagnoses to which the trapezius muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Tension headaches
  • Eye strain
  • Whiplash
  • Stingers or burners
  • Sprain/Strain injury
  • Shoulder pointer
  • Shoulder separation
  • Glenohumeral separation
  • Adhesive capsulitis (Frozen shoulder)
  • Spasmodic torticollis (Wryneck)
  • Temporomandibular disorder (TMD)
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Spondylosis
  • Stenosis
  • Concussion and Post Concussion Syndrome

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

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

For detailed anatomy information: Trapezius Anatomy

Help with Trapezius Muscle Pain

Cold Therapy Gel For Trapezius Injury and Pain

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain relieving gel that I use on clients who have sudden onset muscle pain or recent injuries.  Biofreeze Cold Therapy gel works like ice and does not promote swelling. A recent study showed that Biofreeze decreased pain 2 times more than ice and the pain relief lasts 9 – 10 longer. If your pain is from a recent injury such as whiplash or strain from lifting and / or carrying heavy objects,  I would recommend Biofreeze.

Biofreeze is recommended for recent trapezius muscle strain and injury

Recommended Cold and Heat Wrap for Neck and Shoulders

Elasto-Gel Cervical Collar can be used for heat or cold therapy to the neck, upper shoulder area. This wrap works with trapezius muscle induced head and neck pain because it comes up to the base of the skull and covers the back of the neck.  Use cold therapy for a new injury or sudden onset pain. Use heat therapy for injuries over a week old and chronic pain from old injury and tight muscles. I recommend this because it conforms to the contours of your body and is well made to last for years.

Elasto Gel Collar helps provide cold and heat therapy for upper trapezius pain and tightness.

Warm Therapy Gel For Trapezius Muscle Related Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that I use both personally and professionally in my massage therapy practice. Unlike other over the counter heating creams, it provides warmth without burning heat.  Applying Sombra to the back of the neck, along the shoulders and upper back going down along the spine to the mid-back can help reduce pain and tightness caused by the trapezius muscle. I recommend Sombra for chronic pain and pain from arthritis.

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel provides excellent relief for trapezius pain.

Hot Cold Pack for Neck, Shoulder and Upper Back Pain

SofTouch Large Hot Cold Pack is a large pack that can be used for hot or cold treatment. The pack is large enough to cover the trapezius muscle from the neck to the middle back. To treat the trapezius, pull the pack up to the base of the skull and let it lie on the upper shoulders and back. The inside of the pack contains a clay-like substance that remains soft and pliable so you can mold the pack to your body. The outside of the pack is wrapped with soft suede like material that does not shock the skin when touched. My clients love this pack and it is now the only large size hot and cold pack that I use in my massage therapy practice.


Tools and Information For Self Treatment of Trapezius Muscle

I use and often recommend the Neck King Massage Tool For Neck and Back to my clients.  The Neck King works on trigger points and pressure points to help relieve muscle tension and pain. The secret to using the Neck King is to follow the directions carefully and to slowly build up the time spent using the tool. For many first time users the tool is too hard to use comfortably. Folding a hand towel and laying it over the Neck King will help ease the discomfort.  This tool has help me as well as many of my clients relieve headaches, sore stiff necks, and upper back strain.

The Neck King is a great tool to treat the trapezius muscle and relieve neck pain and tension headaches.

Self Treatment for Trapezius Muscle Pain

Do you know that small "knots" and other dysfunction in the trapezius muscle can contribute to pain in the head, neck, and shoulder?

When I recommend trigger point tools to my clients I always recommend that they also purchase Claire Davies  The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. Mr. Davies explain the trigger point phenomenon and muscle pain in everyday language. But what makes this book worth its weight in gold are the individual muscle trigger point treatments that Davies has compiled. His diagrams and step by step instructions help you locate which muscles are contributing to your pain and how to find the trigger point for treatment This book is a must-have for anyone interested in finding the cause and treating muscle pain.

The Trigger Point Workbook can help you resolve muscle pain throughout your body.
The Theracane Massager is a self-treatment massage tool for use on those hard to reach areas on the neck, shoulders, back, hips and legs. If you are considering buying the book The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, you will need to buy the Theracane to use the some of  the treatment methods for the back detailed in the book.

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