Have you ever had muscle pain in your upper back before?! This pain can run into your shoulders and neck. The trapezius muscle is located in your upper back and is considered one of the largest muscles in your body. Fibromyalgia pain often attacks this particular muscle. I’ve had several doctors tell me this and from personal experience I can confirm it as true. The first time I went to the doctor to get my upper back pain examined, I thought I had a pinched nerve in my neck. This area remains a very problematic area for me for over two years now. The muscle always feels like a pulled muscle and remains tight all the time- leaving major pain in my upper back, neck and shoulders daily. Whenever I go into a fibromyalgia flare, this muscle hurts even more and is an early indicator that a flare-up is on its way (at least for me). The trapezius muscle group can also affect people who do not have fibromyalgia. It is not specific to fibromyalgia.
Warning signs your trapezius muscles may be causing you pain…
1. Limited range of motion. I often experience this. Turning my head right or left, or even to look up and down causes major pain. It may even hurt to raise your arms. Whenever I get an attack of this muscle, I can’t lift my arms to drive. Even raising my arms to feed myself becomes painful.
2. Pain between the shoulder blades. This was my number one complaint when I saw the doctor. On a daily basis I have shoulder blade pain that runs up into my neck. It is very painful and makes doing anything near impossible. Motions such as vacuuming or washing the floor cause the pain between my shoulder blades to become worse.
3. Neck and shoulder pain is a common symptom to see. There again, the pain in these areas will contribute to limited range of motion.
In 2020, fibromyalgia researchers conducted a study that involved the trapezius muscle. People who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia had the pressure in the trapezius muscle measured. A pressure gauge with a needle attached to the end was inserted into their trapezius muscle. They noted that the pressure in their muscles were almost three times as high compared to individuals who did not have fibromyalgia. Dr. Liptan, who has treated many people with fibromyalgia, explains that the pressure in the muscles recorded are just about high enough to the pressure in compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome is considered a surgical emergency. You can read more about compartment syndrome here. The findings in this study could explain why our muscles are so tender and why we experience high muscle pain. Again, more research needs to be conducted. It does make sense. The higher the pressure, the more angry our muscles get! Here is the link to the study completed in 2020.
I was researching the trapezius muscle the other day and came across a new term. Trapezius myalgia – “which is the complaint pain, stiffness, of the upper trapezius muscle. The term does not mean there is another disorder involved, but refers to a symptom of an existing underlaying condition. “Read more about it here.
What are the treatment options for trapezius muscle pain?!?
1. Heat or ice. For myself I tend to apply lot of heat. I have the heating pad on my upper back fairly consistently. Some people may find ice helps the area better. You can use whichever you prefer. I often spray a product such as Bio-freeze that is often used by physiotherapists. Its almost like icy hot that soothes sore muscles.
2. If you google gentle stretches for trapezius muscles, there are a-lot of great Youtube videos out there that will show you how to gently stretch this muscle to find relief. Many physiotherapists have uploaded stretching videos to the web. Just be sure you are using a reliable source so you don’t cause further pain to arise.
3. People may often opt to go directly to a physio therapist. If you rather go to an appointment and have a physiotherapist show you how to relieve the pain do so!
4. Medications. My pain was so high that I asked my doctor for some muscle relaxants. Over the counter medications were not helping the pain, but the muscle relaxants do. I try to only take the prescription if I cannot tolerate the pain.
5. Other people may turn to treatment options like dry needling or acupuncture if the pain area remains chronic. I have not tried either routes. More so because I am a chicken and hate needles.
6. Massages are another treatment option. If you can handle a message you may wish to try one. For myself I would find a massage extremely painful. I can barely lightly touch the areas that hurt.
7. Trigger point injections. The pain clinic I attended thought this would help me find some relief. I never tried it but know others have and found some relief. The only problem is the injections usually wear off before its time to go back again.
8. Rest the area. Try to rest the are to allow irritation of the muscle to ease off.
There are many other alternative treatments that I could list, but I’ll only mention the above eight in my article. I’ve yet to find the right combination to relieve the pain long term. I’m currently researching and thinking of trying myofascial release treatment – which is similar to a massage, but concentrates on the connective tissue rather than the muscles. It is often used as a treatment option to help fibromyalgia pain. Everyone will have a different response to myofascial release therapy – some people say it helps tremendously, while other people find it causes more pain to form. Not all massage studios offer this treatment. You may have to experiment and attend a few sessions to see how your body responds. I hope the information in this article helps you find some pain relief!