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(Last Updated On: March 10, 2019)

Trapezius Origins, Insertions, Actions

Muscle Anatomy of the Upper Trapezius

Origin: External occipital protuberance, medial third of the superior nuchal line, the nuchal ligament, and the spinous process of C7
Insertion: Lateral third of the clavicle and the medial aspect of the acromion process of the scapula
Actions: Upward rotation and elevation of the scapula
Innervation: Spinal accessory nerve (cranial nerve XI) and the ventral rami of spinal nerves C2, C3, C4
Blood Supply: Branches from the thyrocervical trunk

Trapezius Origin, Insertion, Action, Innervation

Upper Trapezius Actions

Primary Actions of the Trapezius

1. Upward rotation of the scapula

  Agonists:

  • Serratus anterior (lower part)
  • Trapezius (lower part)

  Antagonists:

  • Levator scapulae
  • Serratus anterior (upper part)
  • Rhomboid major
  • Rhomboid minor
  • Pectoralis minor

2.  Elevation of the scapula

  Agonists:

  • Levator Scapulae

  Antagonists: 

  • Serratus anterior (lower part)
  • Trapezius (lower part)
  • Pectoralis minor

Secondary Actions of the Trapezius

1. Assists with extension of the cervical spine

  Agonists:

  • Sternocleidomastoid
  • Rectus Capitis Posterior Major
  • Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor
  • Obliquus Capitis Superior
  • Splenius Cervicis
  • Splenius Capitis
  • Ilocostalis Cervicis
  • Longissimus Cervicis
  • Longissimus Capitis
  • Spinalis Cervicis
  • Spinalis Capitis
  • Semispinalis Cervicis
  • Semispinalis Capitis

  Antagonists: 

  • Longus Colli
  • Longus Capitis
  • Anterior Scalene
  • Sternocleidomastoid

2. Assists with lateral flexion of the cervical spine

  Agonists:

  • Longus colli
  • Rectus capitis lateralis
  • Scalenes
  • Sternocleidomastoid
  • Obliquus capitis superior
  • Splenius cervicis
  • Splenius capitis
  • Iliocostalis cervicis
  • Longissimus capitis

Antagonists: Same muscles on contralateral side

  • Longus colli
  • Rectus capitis lateralis
  • Scalenes
  • Sternocleidomastoid
  • Obliquus capitis superior
  • Splenius cervicis
  • Splenius capitis
  • Iliocostalis cervicis
  • Longissimus capitis

3. Assists with contralateral rotation of the head and cervical spine when acting unilaterally

Agonists:

  • Semispinalis capitis
  • Semispinalis cervicis
  • Multifidus
  • Sternocleidomastoid

Antagonists: Same muscles on contralateral side

  • Semispinalis capitis
  • Semispinalis cervicis
  • Multifidus
  • Sternocleidomastoid

Muscle Anatomy of the Middle Trapezius

Origin: Spinous processes of T1 to T5
Insertion: Medial edge of the superior surface of the acromion process of the scapula and the superior edge of the scapular spine
Actions: Retraction of the scapula
Innervation: Spinal accessory nerve (cranial nerve XI) and the ventral rami of spinal nerves C2, C3, C4
Blood Supply: Branches from the thyrocervical trun

Primary Actions of the Middle Trapezius

1.  Retraction of the scapula

  Agonists:

  • Rhomboid major
  • Rhomboid minor

  Antagonists: 

  • Serratus anterior
  • Pectoralis minor

Muscle Anatomy of the Lower Trapezius

Origin: Spinous processes of T6 to T12
Insertion: Tubercles at the apex of the scapular spine
Actions: Upward rotation of the scapula
Innervation: Spinal accessory nerve (cranial nerve XI) and the ventral rami of spinal nerves C2, C3, C4
Blood Supply: Branches from the thyrocervical trunk.

Primary Actions of the Lower Trapezius

1. Upward rotation of the scapula

  Agonists:

  • Trapezius (upper part)
  • Serratus anterior (lower part)

  Antagonists: 

  • Levator scapulae
  • Serratus anterior (upper part)
  • Rhomboid major
  • Rhomboid minor
  • Pectoralis minor

2. Depression of the scapula

  Agonists:

  • Serratus anterior (lower part)
  • Pectoralis minor

  Antagonists:

  • Trapezius (upper part)
  • Levator scapulae

Information about cause and effect of Trapezius pain:

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

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Recommended Anatomy Books:

The Anatomy Coloring Book is one of the best study and reference books for beginning anatomy students. The diagrams are clearly labeled and allow you to see the relationship and placement of the various structures of the body. You will also be surprised by how the act of coloring will help with recall. But this is not just a beginners book, it is also great for practitioners and therapists to have on hand to use with clients and patients to use as a visual reference.

The Trail Guide To The Body is another excellent book to help you learn the musculature of the human body. Though the book is geared toward massage therapists and physical therapist assistants, the book with its illustrations and text helps anyone gain a thorough understanding of the human musculoskeletal system and movement. I highly recommend this book for anyone studying anatomy and believe that MTs, PTAs, and teachers of body movements should have this book in their possession. I also highly recommend this book for the layperson who wants to gain an understanding of the muscle, skeletal system and how our bodies move. This book will not disappoint!

Out of the scores of books in my office, Basic Clinical Massage Therapy is by far the most referenced book in my library. The musculoskeletal system is overlaid on human models allowing you to learn the precise location, origin, and insertions of each muscle. The models are pictured in various poses throughout the book which also helps you visualize muscles in motion and their actions relationship with the skeletal structure and other muscles. Though it is written for massage therapists, it is an excellent book for anyone who wants to learn about the muscular system. MT's will benefit from the recommended treatments for each muscle.

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