Friday, October 17, 2014


Neck pain is common and most of us have experienced it at some point. It brings with it the anxiety of a serious illness like spondylitis!  Fortunately most cases of neck pain are not due to spondylitis. One of the commoner and less understood causes is trapezitis!
The Trapezius Muscle
The trapezius is a large muscle that forms the nape of the neck. It extends from the neck to upper back and fans out to the shoulder. The muscle has many functions but the most relevant one is to lift the head to look upwards. Any work that requires the head to be stable like working on a computer, reading a book, working on a kitchen table, driving for long or watching television etc. brings the trapezius into action. With our modern lifestyle, one can imagine the extent of overuse and often abuse this muscle faces!
Fatigue and inflammation of this muscle leads to trapezitis. The symptoms are typical. It starts with mild pain or discomfort in the nape of the neck at the end of the day. Initially a good night’s rest solves the problem. In the early stages, massaging the muscle or a hot water bag brings relief. As time passes, the attacks become more frequent and painful. The muscle goes into spasm and feels hard to touch. The pain becomes constant and is not relieved easily. Eventually the pain and spasm can become unbearable. At this point, the patient seeks medical intervention and needs muscle relaxant tablets to decrease the spasm. Understandably this disorder is confused with spondylitis. However it is a different illness with a different approach to treatment.
An acute episode of trapezitis is treated with anti – inflammatory, muscle relaxant tablets. In addition, patients require physiotherapy modalities, a soft cervical collar and rest. A physiotherapist will use interferential therapy (IFT) and short wave diathermy (SWD) to reduce the spasm. The severe pain settles in 7 to 10 days.
We cannot avoid our daily routine and daily work! So how do we protect our trapezius from fatigue and bouts of inflammation? Firstly one must strengthen the muscle so that it can take the rigours of our routine. One needs to do neck and shoulder exercises regularly. Here I will emphasise the importance of doing exercises that involve the hands going above the head (overhead exercises). Swimming is an ideal exercise for trapezitis and regular swimmers seldom get such pain. The second philosophy of treatment concentrates on the ergonomics of work! Poor postures are ripe environment for trapezitis. Working with a laptop on bed or watching televisions lying down are a strict NO. Chairs at work should have a lumbar support. One should sit erect. Avoid slouching. The computer screen should be at eye level. A break is necessary every 20 minutes during long hauls in front of the computer or long drives. One should get up, move around and stretch the neck, shoulders and back.   

Trapezitis is a modern day epidemic brought on by our lifestyle. Awareness of the issue and a logical approach to the problem will help most people avoid it all together!  


Ankit Srivastava said...

Sir, I'd also recommend taping along with IFT for quick and lasting relief.

POOJA said...

Yes physiotherapist also did taping and it worked wonders overnight