What Is Trapezius Strain?

Trapezius Strain is quite an annoying and discomforting medical condition in which the affected individual finds it difficult to move the shoulders in any direction. Additionally, it is difficult to perform any overhead activity without experiencing pain or discomfort in the shoulder area. The person also finds it tough to move the neck around with pain. The trapezius muscle is one of the largest muscles in the body and perhaps the most hardworking one. It is triangle in shape and passes through the neck and shoulder to the midback region. Any sort of repetitive stress put on this region like repetitive pushing, pulling, or lifting overhead activities may cause a strain in the trapezius muscle region and be a cause of significant pain and disability.


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Trapezius Strain

What Causes Trapezius Strain?

As stated, the trapezius muscle is a triangular shaped muscle which passes between the neck and the shoulder and goes to the midback region. Strain to this area is generally caused by putting repetitive stress on this region like performing repetitive activities using the shoulder. As an individual performs repetitive motion of the shoulders, the tissues do not get enough rest periods resulting in them getting irritated and inflamed and causing strain to the area which may cause a lot of pain and inability to use the affected arm. People who are commonly at risk for developing Trapezius Strain are construction workers who constantly lift and push heavy materials, and athletes involved in sports which require repetitive use of the arms like swimming, tennis and the like.


What Are The Symptoms Of Trapezius Strain?

The main presenting feature of a Trapezius Strain is pain in the muscles of the arms which radiates from the shoulders to the back of the neck. There is also pain experienced in the thoracic region and the shoulder blades. This pain in the shoulder is made worse with use of the hands for any activity. In Trapezius Strain, there is increased tension in the trapezius muscles resulting in a constant pain in the area with difficulty with range of motion of the shoulder. Resting the shoulder relieves the discomfort somewhat. The pain may also interfere with sleeping as the individual finds it tough to find a comfortable position to sleep due to the constant pain. All the above mentioned symptoms tend to get worse with any form of activity and the individual is not able to perform his or her daily tasks effectively either at home or at work. There is also increased warmth and palpable tenderness in the areas of the strain which can be easily felt. In some cases, Trapezius Strain can cause swelling in the affected region which is a telltale sign of a Trapezius Strain. In some cases of Trapezius Strain, the affected individual may also experience neck pain which may give rise to headaches.


How Is Trapezius Strain Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose a strain in the trapezius muscle region, the physician will first take a detailed history in order to find out whether the individual is involved in an occupation, which requires repetitive movements of the arms or repetitive lifting of heavy materials or if the person is involved in sports involving use of the hands which may be a cause of strain to the area. After taking the history, the physician will then examine the affected areas and look for areas of warmth and tenderness. The physician may also order radiologic studies in the form of x-rays to look at the structures of the trapezius region to rule out other causes of pain and discomfort and to confirm the diagnosis of a Trapezius Strain.

How Is Trapezius Strain Treated?

How Is Trapezius Strain Treated?

The treatment of a Trapezius Strain is dependent on the extent of the strain and various approaches are adopted for treating it. The main aim of treatment is to relieve discomfort and restore the flexibility and movement of the affected arm. It is seen that Trapezius Strain is effectively treated with antiinflammatories and provide good pain relief and reduce inflammation, thus calming down the discomfort and increasing function of the arm. In case if an individual has excruciating pain that is not relieved by over the counter medications then the physician may prescribe stringer pain medications which may also involve narcotic pain medication which the physician will prescribe in limited amount. In some cases of extreme pain, steroid shots have also shown to be beneficial in relieving pain and increasing mobility of the shoulders. Another approach towards treatment of Trapezius Strain is icing the affected area. This is usually done for about two days after the injury. Some ice is taken in a towel and is applied on the affected area for about 20 minutes two to three times a day. This helps in calming down swelling and inflammation and also controls pain. After doing this for a couple of days, this can be replaced with applying heat on the affected area with arm compresses at the injury site for about 20 minutes two to three times a day. This facilitates blood circulation and calms down swelling and inflammation.

Once the swelling and inflammation is down, then the next step is to do physical therapy to the affected shoulder for faster healing of Trapezius Strain. The physical therapist will formulate exercises to include stretching and strengthening exercises along with range of motion exercises to increase strength and flexibility of the shoulder. The therapist will make sure that these exercises are done and advanced in a gradual manner so as not to injure the shoulder even more.

In case if all the above options fail to provide relief from pain and discomfort then it becomes necessary to consult with a specialist to rule out other conditions causing pain and discomfort by undergoing CT or MRI scans to look at the internal structures of the trapezius muscle as conditions like a pinched nerve or a disc herniation can also mimic symptoms of a Trapezius Strain.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: February 27, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer


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