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

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2018)

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

What pain and symptoms are associated with the trapezius muscle?

  • 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.

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
  • Holding a phone to your ear with your shoulder
  • Carrying a heavy purse or backpack on one shoulder
  • Large breasts

TWD Suggests: A Rolling Briefcase

Backpacks and heavy briefcases wrecks havoc on the trapezius muscle. The Swissgear Granada Rolling Case will take the stress off your neck, shoulder, and arm muscles and keep your stuff neat and organized.

Trapezius Origin, Insertion, Action, Innervation

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.

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.

TWD Suggests:  Crossbody Purse

A prime contributor to women's neck, shoulder and upper back pain are heavy satchel and shoulder purses. To take the strain off your muscles consider a crossbody purse. The Triple Zip Pocket Large Crossbody Bag is stylish, comes in lots of colors, and large enough to carry everything you need.

Clinical diagnoses to which the trapezius muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • 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
  • C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 C6 C7 C8 radiculopathy
  • T1 T2 T3 T4 radiculopathy
  • Concussion and Post Concussion Syndrome

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

TWD Recommends: Huggaro Neck Wrap

We tend to carry our stress in our neck and shoulders. The Huggaroo Neck Wrap is a large wrap that will treat neck, upper shoulder, and upper back muscles. It can be used cold for injury and swelling, or warmed for deep penetrating moist heat.

Satellite trigger points associated with the trapezius muscle:

  • Temporalis
  • Masseter
  • Splenius Cervicis
  • Semispinalis
  • Levator Scapulae
  • Rhomboids
  • Pectoralis Major
  • Pectoralis Minor
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Supraspinatus

For detailed anatomy information:  Trapezius Anatomy


TWD Recommendations For 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.

Recommended Cold and Heat Wrap for Neck

Elasto-Gel Cervical Collar can be used for heat or cold therapy to the neck, upper shoulder area. This wrap works with trapezius muscle 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

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.

Hot Cold Pack for Neck, Shoulder and Upper Back Pain

CorPak Soft Comfort Hot & Cold Pack Wrap is a versatile pack that can be used to most areas of the body. This pack works well for the trapezius muscle as it will cover the neck and the upper back. The pack is filled with pliable gel and has a soft frost free cover that will not irritate your skin. For recent injuries, use it cold to reduce swelling. For older injures or chronic pain use heat to relax the muscles and increase circulation.

Massage Therapy Tools Provide Pressure To Help Relax Neck and Head Muscles

I use and often recommend the Neck King Massage Tool For Neck and Back to my clients who suffer from headaches, migraines and stiff necks. 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 helped me as well as many of my clients relieve headaches, sore stiff necks and upper back strain.

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, shoulder and upper back?

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.

Easily Treat Hard  To Reach Areas Of The 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 treatment methods for the teres major muscle detailed in the book.



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