Neck pain and upper trap spasms are common conditions affecting almost everyone at least once in their life. It also afflicts others on a regular basis. Most people experience waking up with a painful, stiff neck. The pain and spasms are usually accompanied by a loss of normal neck range of motion, making daily activities difficult such as turning your head or the inability to look behind when driving. The pain can range from a dull ache to sharp, stabbing pain. We often blame these knots on stress and shoulder problems. The internet is full of treatments and stretching exercises that may give transient relief, but the twinges and cricks often return and even worsen…
What Causes Muscle Spasms in your Upper Trap and Scapular Regions?
There are many reasons for muscle spasms including fatigue, dehydration, blood restriction, nerve injury, electrolyte imbalance. Muscles also go into spasm as a way for the body to protect an area from further injury. An example would be a dislocated shoulder – the muscles around the shoulder go into spasms to prevent further movement.
When the brain senses instability or tissue damage around the spine, it sends out a signal that causes muscle guarding. A protective spasm is the brain’s reflexogenic attempt to prevent further insult to injured tissues. By splinting the area with spasms, muscle ‘locking’ effectively reduces painful joint movements and gives you a warning that something is wrong.
Injury/stress to the neck triggers produces these muscle spasms in the trapezius and scapular regions. These knots are usually the size of a quarter to half-dollar and they are dense and tender to touch. Our first thought is to stretch and massage these muscles, but this does NOT address the cause of the spasms. Massage, ultrasound, stretching, trigger point injections can all provide relief of tight muscle or muscle spasms but the relief is usually only temporary.
A mechanical assessment will uncover the root cause of pain and spasm.
If movement and/or positions affect your neck symptoms, then your symptoms are the result of a mechanical problem. (If your symptoms are not affected by movement then further testing is needed to determine if your symptoms are the result of a non-mechanical disorder.) A trained clinician can assess your movement patterns to determine the underlying root cause of your pain and spasms. When the root cause is determined then the mechanical disorder can easily be corrected.
1. Muscle relaxers are the proper treatment for my neck spasms.
FALSE. Muscle relaxers are not treating the problem, only masking the symptoms.
2. Trigger points are the cause of the knots in my neck and need to be targeted with massage and injections.
FALSE. The muscle spasms are referred from an underlying cervical disorder.
3. Massage, Active release, foam rolling are the best treatments for tight neck muscles.
FALSE. The muscles are tight because of an underlying mechanical disorder of the spine. Only when this disorder is corrected will the tightness and spasms go away.
4. I have an inflamed trapezius muscle.
FALSE. The trapezius muscle is not inflamed. It is in a protective spasm because of an underlying mechanical disorder stemming from the cervical or upper thoracic spine.
How Do You Treat Neck and Shoulder Pain?
Since most neck pain is mechanical or caused by stress or damage to joints and soft tissue, the treatment must also be mechanical or movement – exercise. An assessment of the quality/quantity of movement as well as the effect on symptoms determines which underlying structures are problematic. Often there is a “directional preference” or movement in one direction that reduces symptoms. Posture correction often coincides with reducing neck and or shoulder symptoms.
Schedule a Mechanical Assessment now with one of our specialists so they can determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and help you with a self-treatment program: https://web.vptsapp.com/patientlogin