We are sure you would agree that backpack is an essential gear for every hiker. And if you are carrying a backpack for a longer duration, then what is the one thing that troubles you the most? Accommodation? No! Food? No! Think. The neck sore! Do you get a constant pain after carrying the heavy backpack? If yes, then don’t ignore the pain! It could be the trapezius muscle (traps) that is in pain and it's time that you gave them your attention.
What is trapezius muscles
First, what is trapezius muscles and where is the Trapezius muscle located?
Well, they are a pair of large triangular muscles which extend over the shoulders and all the way to the back of the neck. It is this muscle that connects the base of your skull to your shoulder blades and also attaches to the spine’s spinous processes. This trapezius muscle gets affected over time by an individual’s posture.
But then where do trapezius muscles cause pain?
Well because of where it is located, it can lead to neck pain and headaches. In case you have ever felt such intense pain before, you would know what it exactly feels like.
The common symptoms as most people say, it feels like that they are constantly carrying a heavy weight on their shoulders. You might also feel tightness in your arms, neck and upper back. It is these tight muscles which lead to headaches.
Common Causes of Trapezius Muscles Pain
Along with hiking and backpacking, the causes of Trapezius Muscles Pain could be many.
However, some of the most common causes could be:
- Carrying rather heavy backpacks unevenly
- Sitting for Long Hours at the Desk
- Working on the Computer
- Traumatic injuries like Whiplash
- Stress or Tension
- Repetitive Stress Injuries
All of these things can cause excessive straining to the trapezius muscles and cause intense neck pain.
Do you think your back is too heavy?
Well, then check out How to Select the Best Hiking Backpack
Description of the Trapezius Muscle: Understand the Structure
To understand about this muscle entirely, you would need to go through the full Trapezius muscle description that has been discussed here.
The trapezius muscle as discussed above arises from the ligaments along the nuchal crest of the spinous processes of the thoracic and cervical vertebrae and that of the occipital bone.
It got its name because of its trapezoidal shape.
The trapezius can be divided into three bands of muscle fibers which have definite functions and structure within the muscles itself.
Band 1: The Superior Fibers
The superior fibers cover the lateral and posterior sides of the neck with their tendons. These tendons connect to the origins along the insertions on the clavicle and the occipital bone. These fibers act on the scapula by upraising it or by stimulating the shoulders when some amount of weight is carried.
The superior fibers of both the trapezius muscles can stretch the head somewhere at the neck by tugging the occipital bone near the scapula while the other muscles hold the scapula in place.
Band 2: The Middle Fibers
Just below the region of the superior fibers, is present a narrow band that extends from the origins along the superior thoracic vertebrae.
These are the middle fibers and insert into acromion process of the scapula. This fiber withdraws and pulls the scapula by drawing the shoulder blade closer to the spine.
Band 3: The Inferior/ Lower Fibers
The inferior fibers, as opposed to the other two, cover a large area of the back right from their origin all the way along to the inferior thoracic vertebrae.
These then insert into the scapula’s spine. The inferior fibers lower the scapula by tugging it near to the inferior thoracic vertebrae. The lower and superior fibers need to work together so as to laterally push the inferior angle of the scapula and raise the acromion which would help in rotating the scapula.
All of these muscles work together to make things happen and when that is done the trapezius stabilizes the scapula so that the extraneous movement can be prevented.
This is achieved by contracting all of the fiber bands lightly. As is quite evident, the trapezius muscle’s functions are quite heterogeneous and can only be understood well if you are able to understand the functions of the individual muscle fibers that are present in the trapezius.
Self-Help Techniques to Get Rid of Trapezius Muscle Pain
When you are on a hike, it can be difficult to get medical assistance. For all those times, it is best to indulge in self-help techniques. There are certain self-help techniques which you can adapt so as to get rid of the excruciating pain.
Listed below are a few of them.
Technique 1: Applying Pressure
Applying a bit of pressure to the area between your shoulder blades and along the shoulders might prove to be useful. Do it only for ten seconds so that the muscles can feel relaxed.
Remember to press lightly as pushing too hard might just aggravate the pain.
Technique 2: Massage
Want an instant relief?
Then go for a relaxing massage.
Massage is considered as one of the best ways to get relief from the Trapezius Muscle pain.
For this, you would need to find your trapezius muscle with your hand and then by beginning right at the neck’s base, rub the muscles.
You could even watch a few tutorials wherein you would be able to learn as to how to massage your Trapezius Muscles.
Technique 3: Stretching
Trust us when we say, stretching is the ultimate exercise to alleviate your trapezius muscle pain.
Stretching on a regular basis would ensure that you never have to face this pain. You would need to turn your shoulders backward first and then raise your shoulders upwards slowly and then bring them down back to the normal position. You could also try and tilt your neck sideward towards the shoulders.
Do all of these in repetitions regularly and you would certainly notice a change.
Technique 4: Maintain Right Posture
Always ensure that while you are hiking or on a backpack, maintain a right posture. Also, make sure that your backpack is loaded evenly so that you can avoid neck pain.
This would decrease your trapezius muscle pain gradually.
Check out the Common Hiking Mistakes made by Beginners
Top Trapezius Exercises for Hikers
The benefits of Trapezius Exercises cannot be denied. It not only changes the way your upper body appears but also works on greatly to improve your strength.
The good news is that your upper body is going to be absolutely fit and therefore you wouldn’t have to face any kind of pain.
Listed below are a few exercises that you can introduce in your workout regime so as to get that perfect body.
1. Dumbbell Shrug
This exercise is bound to reduce your throbbing neck pain.
- For this exercise, you would need to stand absolutely straight with a dumbbell in each of your hand.
- Your arms must be extended on the sides and must face your torso.
- Now, try and lift the dumbbells by just lifting your shoulders and not moving your hands.
- Raise your shoulders as high as you possibly can while you exhale.
- Hold this position for a second and then lower the dumbbells back to their original position.
- Repeat for a few more times.
2. Barbell Shrug
Most people often wonder how to develop trapezius muscle with barbell exercises. It might seem difficult but isn’t as complex.
- For this, you would need to stand absolutely straight while keeping your feet at the width of your shoulder.
- While you are doing that hold the barbell using both your hands.
- Make sure that you do so with a pronated grip which is where your palms face the thighs.
- You also have to ensure that your hands are a little bit wider than your shoulder width.
- Now that you are in position, begin by lifting your shoulders as high as you can as you exhale.
- Hold this position for a second and never use your hands or biceps to lift the barbell.
- As you inhale, return to the starting position.
- Repeat for a few more times.
3. Barbell Behind-the-Back Shrug
For this Trapezius Muscle exercise, you would need to stand absolutely straight while keeping your feet at the width of your shoulder. While doing so hold the barbell with both of your hands behind your back.
- Make sure that your palms are facing the back and your hands are a bit wider than that of the width of the shoulder.
- Now, begin to raise your shoulders as high as you can while exhaling.
- Hold this position for a second and return back to the starting position while inhaling.
- Repeat for a few more times.
Do not lift the barbell using your biceps. You could also use wrist wraps for superior grip.
4. Dumbbell Lateral Raise
For this exercise, pick up two dumbbells, one in each hand and stand in an absolutely straight position.
- You would need to hold the dumbbells by your side at your arm’s length and at all times your palms must be facing you.
- Take this to be your starting position.
- Maintain your torso in a stable position and lift the dumbbell towards your side with a little bend on the elbow and your hands tilted a bit forward as if you were trying to pour water into a glass.
- Continue going up until both your arms are completely parallel to the floor.
- Stay in that position for a second and when you are lifting your arms, exhale.
- Come back to the starting position while inhaling and repeat for a few more times.
5. Overhead Barbell Shrug
- For this Trapezius Muscle exercise, hold a barbell with both your hands and stand absolutely straight while keeping your feet at the width of your shoulder.
- Now raise the barbell over your head while making sure that your arms are fully extended and that your hands are just a bit outside the width of your shoulder.
- Lift your shoulder as high as you can so as to lift the barbell up towards the ceiling.
- As you reach the top, pause there for a second and then return back to the starting position.
- As you are lifting the barbell make sure that you are exhaling and while coming down inhale.
6. Incline Dumbbell Shrug
- Get two dumbbells, one for each hand and then lie-down on an incline bench with your chest downwards at an angle of 60 degrees.
- This means that would be lying chest-first. When you do so, allow your hands to be hanging straight down while your palms would be facing you.
- Now, focus on your core and keep it tight while you lift your shoulders and middle-back towards the ceiling.
- This means, that you would be lifting your shoulders so that the dumbbells can come in close proximity to your chest. Hold that position for a second and then come back to the starting position.
Are you planning a hiking trip?
7. Dumbbell Jump Shrug
- Stand in a way that your entire weight is distributed evenly across your feet.
- Now, holding one dumbbell in each hand, bend your knees in such a way that it would seem as if you are doing a quarter squat.
- When you do so, the dumbbell would be at mid-shin height, the back is flat absolutely and the chest is up.
- At this point, start pushing your body with your feet away from the floor. Jump as high as you possibly can while raising your shoulders at the jump’s climax.
- As you land, bend your knees a bit which would help in absorbing the weight and coming back to the ground as softly as possible.
- Take pause of a few seconds before beginning again so as to focus on creating hip speed.
- Repeat a few more times.
8. Barbell Row
To improve your trapezius muscle’s strength, barbell row is a great exercise.
- Begin by holding the barbell in a pronated grip.
- Now, bend your knees a bit and as you do so bring your torso forward by bending your waist and keeping your back almost straight so that it is parallel to the floor.
- Your head should be up and your arms should hand directly in front of you holding the barbell.
- Keep your torso stable and lift the barbell while exhaling.
- Hold the elbows closer to the body and make use of only the forearms so as to hold the weight.
- Squeeze the back muscles at the top of the contracted position and hold that position for a second.
- Now slowly lower the barbell to the starting position while inhaling.
- Repeat for a few more times.
By introducing these exercises into your daily regimen, you can improve the strength of your trapezius muscle and would ensure that you do not suffer from back pain.
Also, try stretching at regular intervals and opt for a massage if nothing seems to work.
Don’t let the muscle pain stop you from following your passion!
Make sure you carry your backpack load evenly, wear proper shoes and yes! exercise regularly to fade away the excruciating trapezius muscle pain.
If you have suffered or experienced trapezius muscle pain, then do share your experience in the comments below.