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Treating a trapezius strain depends on the extent of the strain, but treatment usually involves taking measures to relieve pain and restore mobility. The trapezius muscles help the shoulders to rotate, and can sometimes be overused, resulting in a strain. Heavy lifting can cause a trapezius strain and is common in delivery people, construction workers, movers, and people who load trucks for a living. Symptoms of a strain in this muscle include sudden pain in the upper back area, difficulty raising the shoulders, and limited mobility of the upper arms.
A trapezius sprain generally responds well to anti-inflammatory medications. These medications are available without a prescription, and in addition to providing excellent pain relief, they also reduce inflammation. For those in severe pain that is unrelieved by over-the-counter medications, prescription pain relievers may be prescribed by the health care provider. Prescription pain relievers that contain codeine can cause side effects, and should only be taken when pain is severe. In addition, corticosteroids may also be ordered to relieve symptoms.
Icing the area reduces pain and swelling, while improving blood flow and circulation. Ice is typically applied during the initial 48 hours of the injury. Elevating the shoulder over the level of the heart may also facilitate healing and reduce inflammation. After 48 hours have passed, a heating pad or warm compress can be applied to the strain, which will promote circulation and hasten healing. Taking a warm shower and allowing the water to flow over the muscle will also soothe the strain.
Physical or occupational therapy can also help heal a trapezius strain. The health care provider can recommend a therapy program to help restore mobility and improve range of motion. In lieu of physical therapy, home exercises may help stimulate blood flow and help improve function. Doing shoulder rolls and shrugging the shoulders are effective exercises that won't further injure the muscle, if done slow and carefully.
When treatment options fail to bring relief to the trapezius strain, the individual needs to schedule an appointment with his health care provider. Further medical testing may be required to rule out conditions other than a strain. A compressed nerve or herniated disc can cause symptoms similar to those of a trapezius strain. Although initial treatment is similar for all conditions, a nerve compression or bulging disc may require surgery. Diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the symptoms might include an MRI, standard x-rays, and perhaps an ultrasound.