Monthly Muscle: Trapezius
The middle and inferior traps fill the space from just below the top of the shoulder blades in a V down to the lower third of the back (the red and pink sections in the diagram to the right). Along with the upper traps, which we saw last week, these two muscles help move and support your shoulder blades and spine.
Middle Trapezius: The posture corrector
Actions – Pulls shoulder blades towards spine
Common pain culprit – Slouching; Internally rotated shoulders
If you work at a computer, wear a back pack or workout your pecs too much, you probably have internally rotated shoulders. With internally rotated shoulders, comes weakness in the middle trapezius. This happens because the internal rotation is drawing the shoulder blades farther from the spine, keeping the middle trapezius in a constant stretch position. Pain arises because the muscle no longer has the strength to fully contract back to its original length.
Keep checking our blog for great postural exercises. Or, ask your RMT to demonstrate proper strengthening exercises at your next visit.
Lower Trapezius: Superman muscle
Actions – Depresses and upwardly rotates shoulder blade
Common pain culprit – Holding arms out unsupported (e.g.: driving with hands high on wheel, typing without support of table underneath forearms)
The lower traps are engaged when you hold your arms out in front of you, similar to Superman flying through the air. Holding this position for an extended period of time will result in overuse and strain of the lower traps.
Even though this muscle is much lower on the back, its pain referral pattern can extend into the neck. This is why it is important to include a back massage when you are coming in for treatment of neck pain. Clearing out the trigger points in the lower traps will help reduce your neck pain and improve postural control.
The fix? Ergonomic assessment of work station, stretch abdominals, strengthen lower traps
The ‘Superman’ position above is one lower trapezius strength exercise. There are many more, from isometric (without movement) to dynamic exercises. Your RMT can suggest options to suit your body and needs.