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Do you ever feel “trapped” by your traps?- The Neck Series Part III

Free stock photo of man, person, hands, relaxationMany of us often suffer from neck pain, headaches and much more all due to one of the biggest muscles the connect our neck and shoulders – the trapezius muscle.

Given the name, the trapezius muscle is trapezius shaped and has multiple attachments to our neck and shoulder blades.  It is one of the more superficial muscles that covers the upper half of our back.  It is responsible for moving our shoulder blades and the neck.  There are three different fibers to the trapezius– upper, middle, and lower fibers.  With our focus on the neck, we will dive into the upper trapezius fibers.The muscle has many attachments and mainly involves moving the neck and the shoulder blades.


Origin External occipital protuberance

Spinous processes of C7 to T12

Nuchal ligament

Medial superior nuchal line

Insertion Lateral third of the clavicle


Spine of scapula

Action Lateral flexion

Lateral rotation


Both sides will bring the neck into extension

Nerve Innervation CN XI (accessory nerve; motor)

C3 and C4


Most common issues I come across involve and include:

  • Headaches/migraines in the front, sides, and back of the head
  • Pain in and around shoulder blades, eyebrow, and even around the jaw.

Most of the issues will either by directly affecting the muscle and the attachments or by trigger points causing referral pain (not local to the muscle).  The upper trapezius muscle is a pivotal muscle that can cause chronic problems over-time if not conditioned properly and taken care of.  From experience, most problems occur with improper alignment of your neck and shoulders over prolonged periods of time.  Going in to see your chiropractor might also be a great idea to help with the issues above!

Trigger Points in upper trapezius.

Stretches for upper trapezius:

  1. Set up in a neutral position making sure everything is straight and comfortable. Performing the stretch in a mirror for the first time may help determine your neutral alignment.
  2. Bring your arm over and on top of the opposing ear
  3. Gently pull the ear to your shoulder
  4. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds


It’s important to make sure you feel the stretch where you want to pain-free.  If you experience any sharp stabbing pains, make sure to stop the stretch.


Hope this stretch helps you out at work or wherever you are!  More muscles to come!


By: Jonathan Chang, RMT, SMT(cc)







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