The trapezius muscle is a large muscle located at the base of the neck, running down to the shoulder blades. A variety of conditions and actions can cause this muscle to spasm, some that require the attention of a doctor. Therefore, it is important to understand the causes and treatments of trapezius muscle spasms.
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Spasms of the trapezius muscle can be accompanied by stiffness, pain, tingling and weakness. When the muscle spasms, all of the fibers inside of it contract at the same time. These tightened fibers cut off blood flow to the muscle, resulting in further pain and irritation. This new pain can even cause the spasms to tighten and intensify. Unlike a muscle cramp, spasms do not release with movement — in fact you can’t move the muscle when a spasm occurs.
Trapezius muscle spasms typically occur when the trapezius muscle is torn, stretched or strained. This can occur from an unexpected fall, from lifting heavy objects frequently, twisting while lifting something, or an abrupt movement that strains the trapezius muscle. Dr. Irene von Estorff, author of the book, “Symptoms, Their Causes & Cures,” explains that neck and back muscles are very susceptible to spasms because they are often already tense and tight from daily actions.
To treat a trapezius muscle spasm, rub an ice cube over the muscle for approximately five minutes. This will help narrow the blood vessels, which can help release tight muscle fibers. Take an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to ease pain and inflammation. For spasms that do not subside after three days, cover the trapezius muscle with a damp, hot towel for about 20 minutes to encourage blood flow and ease pain and swelling.
The ABC News website warns that severe back and neck pain should be treated by a doctor. Sudden spasms accompanied by tingling, weakness or numbness could signal nerve injury or a ruptured disk. Left untreated, chronic back pain can weaken the muscles and lead to muscular atrophy. Besides resulting in more pain, this potentially fatal condition can cause walking difficulty, problems with head control and even breathing complications.
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Trapezius Muscle
- ABC News: What Causes Muscle Spasms And What Is The Best Way To Treat Muscle Spasms?
- "Symptoms, Their Causes & Cures"; Prevention Magazine Editors; 1996