Trapezius Trigger Points

Upper trapezius trigger points are the most common ones for people to have. The reason why is that the upper trapezius muscle attaches to two mobile structures in your body: your neck and your scapula.

Trapezius Trigger Point
Trapezius Trigger Point 2

The trapezius goes into the dorsal spines of the neck, and then attaches down along the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade.) It also runs and attaches to the lateral third of the clavicle (collar bone.)

So the upper trapezius. has these broad attachments to the neck, shoulder blade, and collarbone. The lower trapezius runs from that same attachment on the scapula and it runs down to attach into the thoracic spine.

That’s the reason why this muscle is called the trapezius: it’s shaped like a trapezoid. However, because the thoracic spine is fixed, the lower trapezius is nowhere near as troublesome as the upper trapezius.

Because the origin and the incision of the upper trapezius both move, the muscle is potentially very unstable, and this causes it to be very prone to getting trigger points.

Finding Trapezius Trigger Points

The upper trapezius is one of a few muscles in your body which has a free edge. One of its primary trigger points lives in this free edge, and you can use a pincer-type grip with your hands to locate it.

The upper trapezius has two main trigger points. The first one is in the shoulder and refers pain up into the base of the skull. The second trigger point is located in the free edge and refers pain upwards into the head and the jaw. It’s this trigger point which can cause tension headaches.

These trigger points are also very common because they’re strongly related to poor posture. When people spend a lot of time reading while looking down, slumped forward, it turns these trigger points on. Nowadays, many people do this sitting in front of screens, or standing looking down at their phones.

With suboptimal posture, the trapezius has to do a whole lot of work which is not well designed to do. It’s designed to work optimally when your posture is beautiful and erect.

If you’re slumping a lot, your trapezius overworks and that turns on triggers. This creates a deep achy pain in your shoulder, neck and sometimes a tension headache.

Trapezius trigger points are big, well-formed triggers and so a massage treatment will usually turn the trigger from active back to latent. The ache will settle, but until the trigger is properly treated, it will turn on again the next time you spend time in a slumped posture.

Treating Trapezius Trigger Points

It’s easy to reach trigger points in the trapezius, as it’s a large, superficial muscle, and the triggers tend to be large as well.

You can treat them yourself using a self massage technique with ischemic pressure. You’ll probably need several treatments to properly release the trigger, as in this muscle they tend to be quite persistent.

You can also dry needle the trapezius, or use trigger point injections. The important thing is to look at the underlying causes which turn on this trigger, which usually means correcting your posture.

Learn how to treat the most common trigger point in the body.