Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Strengthen trapezius muscles to ease back, neck pain

If you're stuck behind a desk or the wheel for long periods of time, the upper back and neck area are common sites for sore muscles. The culprit could very well be the result of two tight muscles known as the "traps" — the trapezius muscle. Neck misalignment, often caused by poor posture (rounded shoulders and a forward head tilt), can develop from many daily activities where you remain in one position for a prolonged time. The upper traps are then under constant tension, eventually causing the muscles to become thick and very tight, which can result in stiffness and pain.

Poor posture is not the only culprit here. Painful muscle spasms in the traps can also be triggered by something as casual as sleeping in an uncomfortable position to more serious conditions such as injuries to the muscles and ligaments in the neck. Repetitive motion, being sedentary or just plain lack of exercise can also lead to a tight and painful neck.

The trapezius muscle, our largest neck and upper-back muscle, is often thought of as being one muscle. But it's actually two large, diamond-shaped muscles, one on each side of the spine, extending from the base of the neck to the edge of your shoulders, then narrowing down through the center of your back to about waist level.

Each muscle is divided into three sections: The upper traps helps to elevate shoulders and move your head to the side and to the back. When you shrug your shoulders you are using the upper part of the traps. The middle traps has a different function; it pulls the shoulder blades back toward each other. The lower traps draws the shoulder blades downward.

All three sections of the trapezius need to be developed equally to achieve proper posture and ensure shoulder health. When the traps are strong, they help support movement in the neck and shoulder blades as well as in the arms.

Researchers report in the November 2009 Journal of Applied Physiology that strengthening these muscles can reduce pain caused by "trapezius myalgia," a tenderness and tightness in the upper trapezius (Weill Cornell Medical College Food & Fitness Advisor, February 2010). And researchers from Sweden, who compared various types of exercise for people whose pain was due to trapezius myalgia, found the most effective pain reduction resulted from high-intensity strength training three times a week for 20 minutes; consult a physical therapist or a qualified personal trainer before beginning this program.

Some tips to avoid painful traps:

TUNE IN TO YOUR POSTURE: Become aware of the "forward head tilt." Remember to sit up straight, lower your shoulders and bring your head back. Contracting abdominal muscles and lifting rib cage slightly will help to straighten your back. It also brings your head more into a proper alignment, which will remove tension from upper back and neck muscles. When reading or sitting at the computer, keep your head and neck in line with your torso, preventing the forward head movement.

BE A FIDGETER: Whenever you find yourself in a position that you will be sitting for two to three hours, take short breaks to stretch and move around.

SHARE THE LOAD: When carrying groceries, packages or heavy shoulder bags, don't always use the same arm or shoulder — alternate sides. Shoulders become elevated to hold the extra weight. One of the common causes of trapezius strain is too often positioning the shoulders up near the ears.

Some exercises to try:

Shoulder shrug (strengthens trapezius and shoulder muscles):

Standing tall with shoulders back, hold a weight in each hand, arms straight down by your sides, palms facing inward. Slowly raise shoulders upward toward your ears; hold for a count of three, then slowly return to original position. Begin with a weight that you can lift 8 to 10 times. Tips: Contract abdominals and keep knees relaxed.

One-arm row (targets the traps, biceps and shoulders):

Place right knee on a bench or exercise ball, then support upper body by placing right hand on bench or ball. Holding a weight in left hand, extend arm straight down. Keeping elbow close to your side, pull weight upward until it reaches the side of your torso. Hold a few seconds, then return to original position; repeat 8 to 10 times each side. Tips: Contract abdominals throughout movement and keep neck neutral with the spine. Do not jerk the arm; use smooth movements.

Shoulder squeeze (strengthens the traps and helps to improve posture):

Standing or sitting, bend elbows at a 90-degree angle with lower arms extended in front of you. Keeping elbows touching the waist, rotate arms outward, pinching shoulder blades together. Hold for 3 to 4 seconds, then return to original position. Repeat 8 to 10 times and do several times a day. Tip: Do not try to lift shoulders.

If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program. Trainer Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. She can be reached at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.

This month we've got some exercises to strengthen the trapezius and shoulder muscles. Lucy and George Flatley, 75 and 82, of St. Petersburg, demonstrate the exercises. (If you have shoulder or neck issues, consult with your physician before beginning any of the exercises.) Sally Anderson

Strengthen trapezius muscles to ease back, neck pain 04/26/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 26, 2010 11:45am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Editorial: Immigration deal may be imperfect, but compromise should be encouraged

    Editorials

    It is obviously premature to congratulate President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats on finding an incremental immigration solution, but their willingness to discuss a deal for America's Dreamers is a good sign. Why is that? Because it has drawn howls of protest from the more extreme factions of both political …

  2. Four Largo city employees lose jobs for not working during Hurricane Irma

    Local Government

    LARGO — Four public works employees resigned or were fired because they didn't show up to work during Hurricane Irma.

    Four public works employees resigned or were fired because they didn't show up to work during Hurricane Irma. The employees, two of whom were fired and two resigned, said they decided to be with their families considering the magnitude of the storm. But City Manager Henry Schubert said Thursday most city employees are required to be present during an emergency. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  3. Aaron Hernandez lawyer: Brain showed 'severe' case of CTE

    Bucs

    BOSTON — Aaron Hernandez's lawyer says the former New England Patriots tight end's brain showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

    Aaron Hernandez's lawyer says the former New England Patriots tight end's brain showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. [AP photo]
  4. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]
  5. Mexico navy official: No missing child in collapsed school

    World

    MEXICO CITY — A high-ranking navy official said Thursday there is no missing child at a collapsed Mexico City school that had become a focus of rescue efforts following this week's deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, though an adult still may be alive in the rubble.

    Search and rescue efforts continue at the Enrique Rebsamen school in Mexico City, Mexico, Thursday. Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 earthquake has stunned central Mexico, killing more than 200 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. ]AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell]