The body’s muscles function to produce force and motion. The trapezius muscle is one of the largest, which makes it highly susceptible to injury/s and spasms. A trapezius muscle spasm is when the muscle starts to contract. This muscle group is based around the neck and shoulders and is used to move the scapula shoulder bone.
Causes of Trapezius Muscle Spasms
A few causes for this muscle to become inflamed/irritated include:
- Poor posture
- Improper lifting
The effects feel similar to a pulled shoulder muscle. Common symptoms include:
- Upper body stiffness
- Shoulder pain
- Neck pain
- Arm numbness/tingling
- Lack of shoulder flexibility
Spasm and Pinched Nerve Difference
A muscle spasm and pinched nerve might seem or feel similar, but they are different. A muscle spasm makes the area tight and can cause muscle twitching. They vary in intensity with some spasms being mild and others excruciating. In some cases, a spasm can cause a nerve to get pinched if the knot contorts tightly around a nerve and if it is big enough. Conversely, a pinched nerve can also cause twitching, but it typically results in severe pain. Pinched nerves can also cause tingling sensations and numbness depending on the severity it could cause muscle spasms.
Treating The Spasms
There are a few ways to treat this naturally.
Heat and Ice Therapy
One way to calm a muscle spasm is using heat and ice. The heat will increase nerve and blood circulation keeping the muscles flexible, and the warmth will soothe the injury. This helps prevent the muscles from spazzing and generating pain. Ice therapy also increases blood circulation but the focus is on reducing inflammation. The nerves become slightly frozen which stops the tingling, significantly reducing the pain.
If pain presents around the trapezius, immediately put an ice pack on. It should be applied every few hours in 15-minute sessions. Once the pain subsides, heat therapy can be applied. A heating pad placed around the area, a warm/hot bath, or standing in the shower if possible with a massage setting letting the warm/hot water hit the muscle. But it must be consistent, doing it for about 20-minute sessions three times a day.
Stretches and Exercises
Stretches and exercises can help keep the muscle flexible and prevent any tightening.
Upper Trapezius Stretch
This stretch will move the upper trapezius area, promoting flexibility and preventing the muscle from becoming stiff.
- Sit in a chair with proper posture
- Holding onto the chair with the left hand, wrap the right arm over the top of the head so that the hand touches the left ear.
- Gently pull the head toward the right and hold.
- Slowly move the head back and repeat with the other hand.
- Moving the shoulders up and down throughout the day stretches the trapezius.
- It releases tension and strengthens the muscle to protect it.
- This exercise should be done every few hours for about a minute or two.
- Also occasionally rolling the shoulders will help stretch the smaller components of the trapezius.
This yoga pose is for relieving tension.
- It can be very helpful for those suffering from severe spasms or from a pinched nerve.
- The first thing is to lie face-down on the floor.
- Keeping the feet straight behind, use the hands to gently push the upper body up so that the spine slightly curves.
- Make sure that the hands are situated in front of the body and firm on the ground.
- Hold for a few seconds and then release.
- Repeat the process three more times.
- The soothing motions from a massage will calm irritated areas and encourage them to heal quicker.
- At first, because of the tenderness around the area, a massage could present with pain.
- The massage therapist needs to press on the area to increase blood circulation so that toxins get flushed out.
- While it might hurt the individual soon notices that the swelling and pain are reducing.
Some massage techniques include:
Chiropractors specialize in the musculoskeletal system and understand how the muscles, bones, and joints all work together. For muscle spasms, they investigate the problem and look at other areas of the body that could be contributing to or worsening the condition. For some, muscle spasms could be brought on by a misplaced joint pressing on the area. A chiropractor will palpate the areas to ensure this is not the case. And if there is a problem, they will perform a joint manipulation. This realigns the joint back in place and reduces muscle spasm symptoms. Over time the muscles become healthier because chiropractic releases toxins and improves the range of motion.
Often, muscle spasms are the result of inflammation. When a muscle swells, it can place pressure on surrounding nerves. The more intense the inflammation the more pressure/stress on the nerves. This can make moving and functioning very difficult because of the pain. To naturally reduce inflammation consider an anti-inflammatory diet. This type of diet is filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that will work to reduce swelling. Although it might not completely repair the muscle injury, it can reduce symptoms and stop oxidative stress. Foods to eat more of are:
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The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, and sensitive health issues and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate and support directly or indirectly our clinical scope of practice.*
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Finley JE. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for Myofascial Pain. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/313007-overview#showall. Updated May 21, 2017. Accessed July 16, 2018.
Rodante JA, Al Hassan QA, Almeer ZS. Myofascial Pain Syndrome: Uncovering the Root Causes. Practical Pain Manag. https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/pain/myofascial/myofascial-pain-syndrome-uncovering-root-causes. 2012;6. Last updated on October 5, 2012. Accessed July 16, 2018.