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Trapezius Muscle Spasm

7 Secrets to Getting Rid of Trapezius Muscle Spasm

Muscles allow you to do basic movements, like chew and breathe. The trapezius muscle is one of your largest making it susceptible to injuries and spasms.

A trapezius muscle spasm is when the trapezius starts to contract. This muscle group is situated around your neck and shoulders and is used to move your scapula (shoulder bone). Below you’ll discover more about this muscle and how you can calm a trapezius muscle spasm. 

What Causes Trapezius Muscle Spasms?

There are a few things that could cause this muscle to become irritated. These include:

  • Using poor posture
  • Injuring the area
  • Tension
  • Improper lifting techniques

Trapezius Muscle Spasm Symptoms

Trapezius Muscle Spasm Symptoms

This problem feels similar to a pulled shoulder muscle but has a few other side effects. Some common symptoms of trapezius muscle spasms are:

  • Upper body stiffness
  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck pain
  • Arm numbness
  • Lack of shoulder flexibility

Trapezius Muscle Spasm and Pinched Nerve Difference

While a trapezius muscle spasm and pinched nerve might seem similar, they are very different.

A muscle spasm will make the area tight. It might also cause it to slightly twitch. They will vary in their intensity with some being mild and others being excruciating. In some cases, a trapezius muscle spasm could cause a pinched nerve if the muscle knot is big enough.

On the other hand, a pinched nerve can cause twitching, but it will usually result in severe pain. It could cause tingling sensations and even numbness. Depending on how much it radiates, it could activate muscle spasms.

Getting Rid of Trapezius Muscle Spasm:

Trapezius Muscle Spasm Treatment

There are a few ways you can naturally treat this issue. Below are a few to consider.

1) Try Heat or Cold Therapy

One way to calm a trapezius muscle spasm is to do heat or cold therapy. Heat can boost your blood circulation and keep your muscles flexible. This can prevent them from spazzing and experiencing pain. It will also send warmth through the area which can soothe an injury.

Cold therapy also increases blood circulation but will reduce inflammation. It will slightly freeze your nerves which stops them from tingling. This can significantly reduce pain.

If you feel pain around your trapezius, immediately put an ice pack on it. You’ll want to apply it every few hours for 15 minutes at a time.

Once you feel the pain subside, you can start heat therapy. You can apply a heating pad to the area or stand in the shower and let warm water hit the muscle. As with cold therapy, make sure to be consistent with it. You’ll want to do it for about 20-minute sessions three times a day.

2) Do Stretches and Exercises

Another option to consider is trying stretches and exercises. These can help keep the muscle flexible and prevent it from tightening. Here are a few you can try.

A) Upper Trapezius Stretch

This stretch will make you move the upper trapezius area. This will encourage flexibility and prevent the muscle from getting stiff. 

To begin, sit in a chair with proper posture. While holding onto your chair with your left hand, wrap your right arm over the top of your head so that your hand touches your left ear. Gently pull your head toward the right and hold. Slowly move your head back and repeat with your other hand.

B) Shoulder Shrugs

By simply moving your shoulders up and down throughout the day, you can stretch your trapezius muscle. It will release tension and strengthen the muscle to protect it from future injuries. 

You’ll want to do this exercise every few hours for about a minute or two at a time. You could also occasionally roll your shoulders to help stretch smaller components of the trapezius muscle.

C) Cobra Pose

This yoga pose is known for relieving tension. This can be very helpful if you suffer from severe spasms or have a pinched nerve due to one. 

The first thing you’ll need to do is lie face-down on the floor. While keeping your feet straight behind you, use your hands to gently push your upper body up so that your spine slightly curves. Make sure that your hands are situated in front of your body and firm on the ground. Hold for a few seconds and then release. Repeat this process three more times.

3) Get a Massage

A massage is a useful way to fight against irritating muscle spasms. The soothing motions will calm irritated areas and encourage them to heal faster.

Keep in mind that at first, a massage might seem like it’s causing more harm than good. This is due to tenderness around the area. A massage therapist will need to press on it to increase blood circulation so toxins are flushed out. While it might hurt at first, you’ll soon notice that the swelling and pain will eventually reduce. 

You can stop by a professional massage therapist where they’ll perform various massage types. Some they might do include:

  • Deep tissue
  • Swedish
  • Sports

You could also try to do a short self-massage. While it won’t be as powerful as a professional one, it can provide slight relief. This massage is similar to how chiropractors relieve neck pain and trapezius muscle troubles because it uses soft manipulation.

To do this, simply take your hand and slowly press it into your shoulder. Rub your hand in different angles and slowly work down to your trapezius muscle. Massage the muscle for a few seconds and then move your hand back to your shoulder. Repeat this process three more times.

4) Visit a Chiropractor

Visiting a chiropractic clinic is also something to try. Chiropractors specialize in the musculoskeletal system and understand how muscles, bones, and joints are interconnected. If you have a trapezius muscle spasm, they’ll investigate the problem, but also look at other sections that might be making the problem worse.

For some, their muscle spasm might be due to a misplaced joint pressing on the area. A chiropractor will check around it to ensure this isn’t the case. If they notice there is a problem, they’ll do a quick joint manipulation. This will slide the joint back in place and reduce muscle spasm symptoms.

Over time, you’ll notice that your muscles are much healthier because chiropractic care releases toxins and improves their range of motion. 

5) Utilize Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape could help calm trapezius muscle spasm symptoms. The tape is designed to keep your muscles in place so that they don’t tingle. This feature will release nerve pain and help them send calming messages to your brain. All of this is because the tape removes pressure off of your nerves so that they relax. 

Despite being wrapped around the area, it won’t hinder your range of motion. In fact, the tape is constructed with a special blend of cotton and nylon so it almost mimics your skin. This way, you can keep moving somewhat normally.

While you can apply this tape yourself, it’s best to contact a physical therapist or chiropractor to do so. They’re trained in how to properly use this tape to its fullest potential.

Most of the time, this tape is safe to use. However, if you have sensitive skin, severe allergies, or skin wounds, it’s best to avoid it. 

6) Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Many times, muscle spasms are the result of inflammation. When a muscle swells, it can press on surrounding nerves. The more intense the inflammation is, the more it will push on the nerves. This can make it difficult to move and even function due to the pain.

To naturally reduce inflammation, you might want to consider adding certain items to your diet. These selections contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that will get to work reducing the swelling. While they might not fully fix the muscle injury, they can reduce its symptoms because they stop oxidative stress. 

Some options you’ll want to eat more of are:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cherries
  • Kale
  • Almonds
  • Salmon
  • Blueberries
  • Turmeric
  • Oranges

7) Watch Your Posture

In some cases, a trapezius muscle spasm is due to incorrect posture. This condition can lead to what is called Upper Crossed Syndrome. Because your spine is slouched, the muscles, joints, and tissues around it will start to tense up and become deformed. This can cause numerous problems, including trapezius muscle spasms.

If you continue to incorrectly sit or stand, you’ll only worsen the problem. While it will take some time to get used to, you’ll notice that proper posture will release tension in and around this muscle.

If you need help using good posture, consider wearing a brace or trying lumbar support. These can encourage you to sit or stand correctly.

Trapezius muscle spasms can be irritating, but you can easily heal them with the right methods. By keeping these tips in mind, you can both prevent and treat this common problem.

References
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.656.582&rep=rep1&type=pdf
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S144024401200076X

Dr. Brent Wells - Anchorage Chiropractor
About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.