The trapezius is a diamond-shaped muscle that spans the upper back and connects the neck, shoulder blades and spine. It contains three distinct regions---the upper, middle and lower fibres---and is most recognised as one of the muscles that tenses up when a person is under stress.
Each region of the trapezius has a distinct function or action to perform. Although the individual regions of the trapezius work together to help a person shrug his shoulders or reach overhead, the lower trapezius specifically retracts outstretched arms and causes the shoulder to rotate.
Causes of Pain
Repetitive motion causes most injuries to the lower trapezius, especially at workstations or desks with poor ergonomic arrangements. Exercising or overexertion, particularly in weightlifting, can also cause muscle strain, as can traumatic events, such as auto accidents. Severe stress can tighten the lower trapezius, restricting motion and causing discomfort.
Untreated pain in the lower trapezius can slow down production at work or at home, making everyday tasks difficult. In long-term cases, it can create missed days at work or leisure time. Severe physical injuries can even lead to a weakening of the trapezius muscles and permanent damage to the muscles and spine.
Massage and stress relief are the first steps in treating pain to the lower trapezius. Stretch or raise the shoulders slightly during the massage as the muscles are being rubbed. Warm baths or showers and a heating pad can also help. Pain relievers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can help alleviate persistent pain. Magnesium can also soothe sore muscles, particularly if taken with calcium, which improves muscle tone. Black beans, halibut, okra and pumpkin seeds are all good sources of magnesium. Finally, gentle exercise can stretch the muscles, such as pulling a stretching band across the chest and back again or pulling on the band after attaching it to a secure object. If the pain continues, call a doctor.
Good posture is the best way to prevent pain in the lower trapezius. Sit upright at your desk, and improve your work area's ergonomics. Continue to exercise with a stretching band to keep the muscles strong, or do chair push-ups---sit at the edge of a chair, and lift up your body using only your hands. Keep stress to a minimum, even if that means finding 15 minutes after a hard day at work to unwind.