Causes of Sore Trapezius Muscle

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Woman rubbing her sore neck (Image: STUDIO GRAND OUEST/iStock/Getty Images)

The trapezius muscle, also called the traps, is a pair of large triangular muscles extending over the shoulders and back of the neck. It connects the base of the skull to the top of your shoulder blades and attaches to the spinous processes of the spine. The trapezius muscle affects and is affected by your posture. Because of its location, it can cause headaches, stiff neck pain and can be a trigger for migraine headaches.

Computer Work

Sitting at a desk and working on a computer for extended time can stress the trapezius muscle, causing soreness and even headaches. Trapezius myalgia, muscle pain in the trapezius muscle along the back of the neck, can be caused by working for long periods sitting at a desk working on a computer keyboard, according to the January 9, 2008 issue of Science Daily. They noted that women are more likely to suffer from chronic neck pain than men.


Traumatic injury such as whiplash can cause a sore trapezius muscle. During an accident or injury the head is snapped backwards and then forwards, straining the trapezius muscles and causing neck pain, according to the Whiplash can be caused by auto accidents, physical abuse or contact sports. Your posture at the time of the accident influences how the trapezius muscle is affected. If you have good posture, the muscle is less affected because the stabilization system of the body responds quickly and efficiently.

Tension or Stress

Tension and stress can cause a tightening of the trapezius muscle, causing soreness and pain. Women perceive life to be more stressful and suffer more from neck pain than men, according to a 2010 study at the University of Gothenburg. The trapezius muscle tightens in response to the stress and causes neck, shoulder and head pain. Trigger spots can develop in the trapezius muscle between the shoulder blades. This pain is associated with mental strain, stress and anxiety.

Carrying a Backpack

Carrying a heavy backpack puts extra pressure on the trapezius muscle, which can cause soreness. Carrying a backpack or purse over one shoulder causes extra strain on the muscle. Alternate shoulders when carrying a purse and wear a backpack in the correct fashion to alleviate stress on the trapezius muscle.

Repetitive Stress Injury

Repetitive stress injury, also called RSI, can make your trapezius feel tight or have knots in it, according to IDEA Health & Fitness Association. RSI is a condition that places too much stress on a joint or muscle. Talking on the telephone while holding the phone between the ear and shoulder, repetitive sports positions or working on a computer can cause RSI.

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