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How Do I Treat a Trapezius Strain?

Treating a trapezius strain involves rest, ice to reduce inflammation, and gentle stretches to maintain mobility. Over-the-counter pain relief can ease discomfort. For severe strains, physical therapy may be recommended. Remember, proper posture and ergonomic workstations can prevent future injuries. How has your daily routine impacted your trapezius health? Join us as we examine the steps to recovery.
Madeleine A.
Madeleine A.

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.

Construction workers commonly experience trapezius strains.
Construction workers commonly experience trapezius strains.

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.

Trapezius strains are common among movers.
Trapezius strains are common among movers.

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.

Icing a trapezius strain may help reduce pain and swelling.
Icing a trapezius strain may help reduce pain and swelling.

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.

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Discussion Comments

anon295146

I found great relief taking Wobenzyme N (enzymes). It took about three days to really kick in for relief from pain, though. It helps the inflammation, and the Europeans have used this for injuries for years instead of constantly taking ibuprofen, aspirin, etc. I took 5 Wobenzyme, three times a day on an empty stomach, 45 minutes before eating. Good luck!

ddljohn

I fell down the stairs in my house and strained my trapezius muscles. I have so much pain, that I'm constantly taking pain-relievers or I find myself in tears. My doctor gave me muscle-relaxers and anti-inflammation medication too but it's not working too well. It seems to help for an hour or two but then the pain comes back and I'm unable to move again. Night time is even worse, it's like a nightmare. I cannot sleep from the pain.

A friend of mine mentioned that acupuncture could be beneficial because she had a similar muscle pain that went away after an acupuncture treatment.

Has anyone tried acupuncture for trapezius muscle strain? Does it work?

I'm willing to try anything if it's going to help.

bear78

@alisha-- I don't have to go to physical therapy but my doctor gave me some exercises to do at home to help treat my trapezius strain. I also use Difene, an anti-inflammatory and pain-reliever. I have a prescription muscle relaxer too but I only take that when my shoulder and neck are unbearably stiff and painful.

It's pretty much a self-treatment. I think rest is the most important piece of the treatment. If you don't rest and keep trying to move, work or exercise, it's not going to get better no matter how many pain-relievers or muscle relaxers you take.

discographer

My doctor also said the same to me about trapezius strain, that treatment and healing time depends on how serious it is. Apparently, if it's minor- pain relievers and rest for a couple of weeks is enough.

Unfortunately, mine was more serious. I had severe upper trapezius strain due to heavy training. I had been experiencing some stiffness and pain for a while but did not take it seriously. One day, I could not move my arms or shoulders and the doctor confirmed that I had strained my upper trapezius.

I did use pain-relievers and an anti-inflammatory medication along with hot compresses. But since the strain was severe, I had to go to physical therapy as well so that I could start moving my shoulders and arms again. The treatment took about three months all in all. I just rested for the first month and then went to physical therapy for the next two months.

It's been five months since my injury but I'm still trying to take it easy because I don't want it to strain it again before it completely heals.

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    • Construction workers commonly experience trapezius strains.
      By: twixx
      Construction workers commonly experience trapezius strains.
    • Trapezius strains are common among movers.
      By: CandyBox Images
      Trapezius strains are common among movers.
    • Icing a trapezius strain may help reduce pain and swelling.
      By: michelaubryphoto
      Icing a trapezius strain may help reduce pain and swelling.
    • Physical therapy may help heal a trapezius strain.
      By: alexp3
      Physical therapy may help heal a trapezius strain.
    • An anatomical illustration including the trapezius near the top.
      By: mikiradic
      An anatomical illustration including the trapezius near the top.
    • Heavy lifting may cause a trapezius straing, which can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication.
      By: cristovao31
      Heavy lifting may cause a trapezius straing, which can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication.