Upper Trapezius


Above is the pain pattern for the Upper Trapezius muscle. Pain is referred from the upper back and side of the neck to the back of the ear, the temple and the back of the eye. This is the typical pattern for "tension headache".

Activities Which Aggravate the Pain
Using the telephone, working at a desk or on a computer, especially without arm support, armrest that are too high, holding the forearms and hands in front of the body without support, tossing your head, stress and tension.

Anatomy Facts - Upper Trapezius

Holding the head in a fixed position. This figure below where the muscle is located in the body and how it is attached to the bones of the body.


Muscle Action
The entire trapezius helps with upper spine extension, scapular elevation and retraction. It also helps with head and neck extension while rotating the chin to the opposite side. Acting unilaterally, the muscle elevates the shoulder, helps to perform shoulder flexion, arm abduction and bends the head toward the same side.

Muscle Origin
These fibers originate from the occipital bone, ligamentum nuchae and the spinal processes of C7 and T1-T12.

Muscle Insertion
The upper trapezius inserts onto the outer third of the posterior portion of the clavicle. The middle trapezius inserts onto the inner portion of the acromion process and along the spine of the scapulae. The lower trapezius converges and inserts onto the lower portion of the scapular spine.

Muscle Innervation
The entire trapezius is innervated by the spinal accessory nerve and by branches from the 3rd and 4th cervical nerves.

Trigger Point Locations - Upper Trapezius 


You can find your own trigger points by using your thumb or finger to press on the spots shown in the picture. They are not difficult to find. Or you can ask a friend or family member to help you. Press firmly in a step-by-step manner until you find the exact spot that is tender. That is the trigger point.

By pressing firmly on the trigger point, and holding that pressure for several seconds, you will discover the pain lessens dramatically. In fact there are devices that can help you do this. We recommend a device called a "TheraCane" that can be purchased at many stores such as Sammons Preston Medical Equipment that has a mail order catalogue that can be contacted at 1 800 323-5547. The TheraCane is their item # 5244. The TheraCane can use be purchased at many local pharmacies.

Unfortunately this technique, known as acupressure, or shiatsu, provides only temporary relief. Some physicians inject drugs like Novocaine into trigger points, but these offer only temporary relief as well, and can cause scar tissue in the muscle.

Isometric Contraction Testing - Upper Trapezius


A painful muscle will become more painful if it is forcefully contracted (flexed). Use this picture to test this for yourself with the help of a friend or family member.

Follow these Directions
Sit in a chair with your hands in your lap while your assistant stands behind you and places one hand on the top of your painful shoulder and the other hand across the top of your head. Try to shrug your painful shoulder, as if you are trying to touch your ear with your shoulder, while your assistant prevents you from doing so.