Chiropractor for Upper Trapezius Pain Relief

I’m willing to bet that upper trapezius pain is one of the most common “nagging” pains we have in the western world. However, we usually don’t call it upper trapezius pain, but more often neck pain, upper back pain, or shoulder pain. The good news is that there are a number of treatments for upper trapezius pain relief.

Sound familiar? If you’re reading this page you’ve probably found it because you’re searching for upper trapezius pain relief. Possibly, “What is upper trapezius pain?” or maybe even more generally “What is the upper trapezius?” Not only are we broadly confused about trapezius pain, but we want answers and find ourselves asking “How can I relieve upper trapezius pain?” or “Who can help me with trapezius pain?”

For a complaint so common there’s surprisingly little content addressing it. Let’s change that. Let’s dig in, and get some answers.

Have you heard about dry needling? Read some of my content about how upper trapezius dry needling may help you:

–> Why Trapezius Dry Needling is the Key to Your Neck Pain

–> Dry Needling for Upper Trapezius Pain


When Neck Pain, Upper Back Pain, and Shoulder Pain is ACTUALLY Trapezius Pain

Like I said previously, from my hands-on experience (with thousands of patients) these seemingly separate complaints are often ACTUALLY upper trapezius pain, known in the medical world as trapezius myalgia.

Trapezius – The specific name of the muscle. Myalgia – A term meaning muscle pain. (The -algia ending added to any muscle, joint or region signifies there’s pain there.)

The reason trapezius pain gets so many common names is that the trapezius is a gigantic muscle. The trapezius muscle is so large that it even has sub-categories: upper trapezius, middle trapezius, and lower trapezius. While all these are continuous with each other and technically makeup one muscle, they have distinct characteristics. The regions of the muscle differ in their thickness, fiber direction, attachments to the skeleton, actions, strength, and so forth.

Don’t get me wrong, neck pain, upper back pain, and shoulder pain can have plenty of other causes. The trapezius muscle is not the end all be all, but it’s almost always involved in some way.

Trapezius myalgia may not be the primary diagnosis, but it usually has a role in the pain you’re feeling. It’s a culprit, and addressing the trapezius muscle will yield improvement in function and reduction of pain even with other issues going on.



This image gives you an idea of the size of the trapezius muscle. The portion from the top of the shoulder blade that travels all the way to the base of the head is the upper trapezius portion of the muscle.

Upper Trapezius Muscle Stretches – A Step in the Right Direction

Stretching the upper trapezius muscle is a great first step to get upper trapezius pain relief and remedy muscle tightness and dysfunction. For goodness sake, STRETCH IT FIRST before you take any more drastic or invasive steps. Invest in yourself and answer your body’s call for help – it is speaking to you. The upper trapezius muscle is easy to stretch, you don’t need to be athletic to do it, and stretching can bring a lot of relief.

To put it simply, tight upper trapezius muscles are sick, unhappy, and irritated muscles. Stretching is valuable, in fact, much of yoga’s value lies in that it involves active and passive stretching.

What Do Upper Trapezius Stretches Do?

Upper trapezius muscle stretches work by lengthening the muscle fibers and associated fascia. The stretches also push your joints towards their end ranges of motion and improve joint mobility. If you have trapezius pain, most of the time you have tight muscles, dysfunctional fascia, and immobile joints surrounding the area. 

Understanding muscle physiology is an undertaking of its own, but know that stretching has a profound effect on your tissues and joints as well as your neurology. Your upper trapezius muscles become shortened or “tight and stiff” over long periods of time. Tissue deformation is a long process and you may not notice terrible effects until they have reached a critical moment. If you have pain you’re at this moment. It’s time to stretch and address your dysfunctional muscles, they’re begging you to help them return to a healthy length and state.

A Couple Easy Upper Trapezius Stretches

There are a lot of different stretches than can bring upper trapezius pain relief. Here’s what I cover in the video posted below:

  • First, the video shows you how to stretch the upper trapezius by taking it all the way to its current endpoint, and then how to stretch it a little further.
  • Second, the video shows you how to do PNF/PIR stretching of the upper trapezius. This actually involves contracting the muscle for a few seconds to trick it into releasing a little more.

Upper Trapezius Stretching is Probably Not Enough…

It’s important to know, and you may have already found out if you’ve been stretching your upper trapezius muscle, that stretching alone will probably not get you 100% upper trapezius pain relief. If you’ve had discomfort in this area for a while, it can be challenging to fix on your own. However, there are other treatments you can turn to for relief. Our Cary NC chiropractic providers provide a number of other treatments that are effective at relieving trapezius myalgia when stretches are not enough.

  • Chiropractic manipulation (also known as chiropractic adjustments) can restore motion to the surrounding joints and help inhibit tightness to the trapezius muscles. It can really bring a lot of relief.
  • A treatment called dry needling, where a small acupuncture needle is placed into knots in the upper trapezius muscle can release trigger points and force the muscle to relax and function normally again.

These “knots” are called trigger points, read more about trigger points here –> What is a Trigger Point?

  • A more extensive program of stretching and corrective exercises prescribed by a chiropractor will help fix postural problems and correct imbalances that are at the root of your upper trapezius pain.

I also recommend at least getting examined by a chiropractor to make sure you’re familiar with exactly what’s causing your upper trapezius pain. At our Cary chiropractic office, we do a comprehensive exam and can put together a trial of care to get you upper trapezius pain relief. Diagnosing yourself is not usually a good idea, and there are often more tissues and joints involved than just the upper trapezius.

Dr. Jason Williams DC is a chiropractic physician practicing at AccessHealth Chiropractic in Cary, NC. He treats neuromusculoskeletal pain and injuries using chiropractic manipulation, dry needling, acupuncture, rehab exercise strategies, and other supportive therapies. Primary areas of focus include back pain, neck pain, muscular pain, extremity pain, and orthopedic injuries. Dr. Williams is experienced in treating athletes, especially those in the CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA community.

If you’re interested in whether he or another AccessHealth provider can help you, navigate to our contact page or follow this link to request an appointment.