Trapezius Myalgia Causing Chronic Neck & Shoulder Pain

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It is reasonably estimated that 7 of 10 will suffer neck pain and of those; 1 out of 20 will experience pain to the point where it will produce disability in working or at leisure. Trapezius Myalgia is one of these painful neck conditions.

Neck pain often is related to overworked muscles and is reactive to stressful situations, particularly noting increased chronic problems in relation to working with computers. Repetition of work tasks and stress is particularly noted in females who show an increasing trend towards neck disorders. Research has shown that strengthening the muscles in females with neck pain can have beneficial effects and produce a lasting relief in those who have trapezius myalgia.

trapezius myalgia - click to enlargeWe have examined details of the trapezius muscle in an article on neck muscle strain, where we detail specific muscles related to the neck and problems associated with each. Expression of pain by a lowered blood flow of the trapezius muscle was also found in patients with chronic neck pain due to work-related chronic trapezius myalgia and in patients with chronic neck pain persisting after a previous car accident resulting in whiplash trauma.

Most of us are troubled by neck pain at some point in our lives. Today’s computer dominated workplace can be especially tough on the neck. Poor neck posture results because so many of us sit for long periods with the shoulders slumped and head extended toward the monitors. Women are more likely than men to develop and suffer neck pain. While actively employed, these women experienced sensations of localized muscle pain, tenderness to touch, stiffness, and constant muscle fatigue. In particular, computer work has been associated with neck pain symptoms, and more specifically pain from the trapezius muscle, or “trapezius myalgia”, is frequent in women engaged in repetitive and monotonous work tasks.

Help For Trapezius Myalgia

Muscle Therapy & Ergonomics

There are methods to treat the tender areas in the trapezius muscle. Massage tools that target specific areas in the trapezius make it easy to reach the muscle. This can help release tender areas and increase blood flow, reducing pain and increasing function. Moist heat helps relax the trapezius, increasing blood flow and reducing stress, an important factor in trapezius myalgia. A u-shaped heating pad that is of sufficient size can provide heat therapy to most of this muscle efficiently.

Ergonomics is an important factor, both while working and while sleeping. Good pillows designed for the neck and shoulders can allow the muscle to relax while sleeping in back or side postures. If you work at a computer, correct ergonomic positioning is essential in avoiding postures which can cause or aggravate trapezius myalgia. Exercises and stretches for the neck can help reduce pain and reinforce good posture.

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Strengthening Exercises For Trapezius Myalgia

There is evidence that certain exercises designed to strengthen can help break longstanding cycles of neck pain from trapezius myalgia. A study regarding physical exercise on chronic neck pain was published in a January 2008 issue of Arthritis Care and Research, titled “Effect of Two Contrasting Types of Physical Exercise on Chronic Neck Muscle Pain”. It was revealed that women with work related neck pain experienced significant and long lasting relief by regularly practicing five specific neck muscle strengthening exercises. General fitness exercising showed a slight reduction of neck pain.

The study involved women who used keyboards for more than seventy five percent of their work. They began by answering questions regarding their neck pain and subsequently received examinations confirming trapezius myalgia, which simply means pain of the trapezius muscle. The diagram shows the extent of this pain in the neck and shoulders. The study placed those who participated into 3 different treatment groups. 1): Strengthening exercises of the neck & shoulder muscles, 2) exercising with a stationary bicycle, 3) No exercise, just information regarding health. Those performing exercises did so for twenty minutes, 3 sessions per week for a total of ten weeks.

There was a minimal reduction of neck muscle pain in the bicycle exercise participants, however, this was only noted right after exercising. Those who did the strengthening exercises displayed a significant pain reduction which lasted well after the strengthening. The authors of the study noted that specifically strengthening the neck and shoulder muscles had the most treatment benefit for chronic neck muscle pain.

Additionally, reduced muscle pain was gradual with the strengthening participants, as trapezius myalgia steadily decreased with increasing muscle strength. Even with the short lasting pain relief noted in the bicycle training group, the small reduction in pain could have a motivating effect to do exercises, which can have a beneficial effect on overall health.

With aging, muscle mass and strength decreases, while careful training with weights can help to restore lost muscle volume and strength. Additionally, there are beneficial side effects; improved cardiovascular conditioning, prevention and improvement in diabetics, reduction in joint stiffness due to arthritic conditions, increase range of motion and a decrease in weight!

This study shows strengthening specific muscles in those who suffer from trapezius myalgia for twenty minutes – three times per week is an effective treatment protocol.

5 exercises using hand weights for neck and shoulder muscle strengthening were used, done 3 times a week on alternating days at twenty minutes each training session. Perform 3 out of 5 exercises doing 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. A set of exercises should only take about 30 seconds. Change your choice of the 3 exercises each time, however, the one to do every time is the dumbbell shrug. You can increase the weight in a gradual fashion, so that the weight doubles over 10 weeks of exercising.

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Specific Trapezius Myalgia Exercises

Dumbbell Shrugs


dumbbell shrug exercise

Standing straight, position your feet at shoulder width distance with knees bent slightly. Holding the weights in your hands, have your arms hang downward on each side as the palms of your hands face your body.


Start Shrugging your shoulders up as you contract the top portion of the trapezius muscle. Hold briefly and then lower. You can repeat this 8 to 12 times each set – starting with 17 to 26 lbs.

One Arm Row

one arm row exerciseStanding with the left knee flat on the bench with the right foot on the floor, place a weight in your right hand. Bending your body forward and place your left hand on the bench allowing support. Let the right hand hang towards the floor. Lift the weight so that your arm is even with your back, hold briefly, then lower. Perform 8 to 12 repetitions each set, then perform on the left side and repeat. Start with 13 to 22 lbs.

Upright Row

upright row exercise

Standing straight, position your feet at shoulder length distance, holding the weights in front of your thighs and palms facing your body. Steadily lift the weights up, like zipping a coat. Steadily let the weights down to starting position. Do 8 – 12 repetitions each set. Begin with 4 – 11 lbs.

Reverse Fly

reverse fly exercise

Lying on the bench and angled at 45 degrees, hold the weights in your hands, allowing the arms to lower towards the floor. Keep the elbows bent slightly and lift upward and outward at the sides to near the level of the shoulders. Steadily lower weights. Do 8 – 12 repetitions each set. Start using 2 – 6 lbs.

Side Raising

lateral raising exercise

Standing straight and feet at shoulder length, with knees slightly bent. Lift arms to the side until even with the floor. Steadily lower your arms. Do 8 – 12 repetitions each set. Start with 4 – 9 lbs.


Remember, do not strain with these exercises. Begin slowly and you can use wrist weights to start with. The idea is to gradually progress. You are not in a study. Use lighter weights and take longer to progress. Take your time and try to use correct form as pictured. Breathe fully using your abdomen and coordinate this with the exercise motions.

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In the study, everyone was under careful supervision. Therefore, talk with a doctor or therapist that can assist in providing a specific program for your particular needs, making sure the exercises are performed in a correct manner. The recommended starting weights are from the study, however, you should use the amount of weight allowing 8 – 12 repetitions without straining.

The strengthening increases efficient use and endurance of the muscles, thereby reducing pain. The program has the potential to increase shoulder raising strength in the trapezius muscle by 28 percent! This can reduce the loading force of the trapezius muscle during everyday activities. Trapezius pain steadily decreases as muscle strength increases.

It is important to note that the trapezius muscle is very sensitive to stress and poor posture. When doing the exercises, note the lowering of the shoulders as you relax with the weight in your hands. Try to remember the feeling in this position can help remind you to relax the muscle whenever you feel tense.

So many work at computers much of the time and this can be problematic for your neck. It is typically seen that sitting at a computer for extended amounts of time cause the shoulders to move forward as the head extended gravitates towards the screen. The more you concentrate, the more you assume a bad posture. Add stress to this picture and, over time, trapezius myalgia can develop.

A February 2014 study in the journal BioMed Research International indicates a prevalence of trapezius myalgia among elderly women doing computer work causing chronic painful muscles. They found almost 40 percent of these women suffered from trapezius myalgia. The study found significant muscle weakness of the trapezius and used strength training to improve function and relaxation ability of the muscle. This study elaborated on the authors previous studies indicating almost 80% pain reduction with a 10 week strengthening exercise program.

Where daily job requirements use repeated muscular contractions of the arms leading to fatigue, like typing and assembly line workers, this has important implications for worker productivity, as well as treatment and prevention of neck and shoulder pain.

In a March 2014 issue of the journal of Pain Research and Treatment, the authors did a study and found a strong association between neck and shoulder pain and trapezius muscle tenderness among office workers. Their study confirms most neck and shoulder pain is related pain and tenderness of the muscles. The severity of tenderness was more in women than men, about 23& vs 7%, which is similar to findings in fibromyalgia. Severe tenderness was more prevalent among women than men (23% versus 7%). This gender difference of tenderness is in line with findings in fibromyalgia patients, and the authors suggest this may be due to testosterone levels.

Stress & Trapezius Myalgia

In an article titled “Differential effects of mental concentration and acute psychosocial stress on cervical muscle activity and posture”, published in the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology in June of 2013, the authors of this study tested various neck muscles under highly stressful conditions in office workers. They found that trapezius muscle activity significantly increased from the high stress conditions compared to the other muscles. This demonstrates how sensitive to stress the trapezius muscle is. Having “the weight of the world on my shoulders” alludes to this. Therefore, this muscle should be an area of focus for relaxation, massage, soothing heat and strengthening to help avoid problems and alleviate trapezius myalgia.

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