Your trapezius muscle starts at the base of your neck and extends to your shoulders and mid-back. The trapezius muscle — or trap — is essentially responsible for your posture, helping you stand and sit up straight. It also controls your shoulder blades when you lift your arm, shrug your shoulders, bend your torso or pull your shoulders back.
Since the trapezius muscle is so large, medical professionals divide them into three parts to make accurate diagnoses. Each part controls different areas of your back and shoulder. The three parts of the trapezius include:
- Upper trapezius — The upper trapezius is located at the top of the muscle, at the base of your neck. It extends across the tops of your shoulders and helps you tilt and rotate your head. It also helps you shrug your shoulders.
- Middle trapezius — The middle trapezius can be found just below the upper trapezius. It extends across your shoulders to help pull your shoulders back and stabilize your shoulders while moving.
- Lower trapezius — The lower trapezius begins at your shoulder blades and extends into the middle of your back. It keeps your spine stable while you twist and bend your torso.
What causes lower trap pain?
Achiness, tightness and sharp pain in your middle back can indicate a lower trap problem. Lower trap pain can be a symptom of a range of injuries, including:
- Repetitive strain — You can strain your lower trap if you repeat the same motion over time. This can often happen while lifting heavy objects, especially if you work in a physically demanding workplace like a warehouse. If you don’t properly warm up before lifting, you could stretch your lower trap muscle beyond its capability.
- Fall or sudden injury — The lower trap is in a more stabilized position than the upper and middle traps. This means that you are less likely to seriously injure your lower trap compared to other parts of the muscle. However, serious trauma can still tear your lower trap, including car accidents, sports injuries and a hard fall.
- Poor posture — Your posture dictates how your back and shoulders carry your body weight. In a slouched position, you could be placing immense pressure on your back and shoulders over time. As a result, your lower trapezius can become weakened and inflamed. Weak lower traps can limit your mobility and strength while performing exercises like chest presses.
3 lower trap exercises to treat your back pain
If you strained or injured your lower trap muscle, you might feel pain that intensifies when you twist or bend. You might also experience swelling around the strained muscle. To help treat these symptoms, try these exercises that can target your lower trap:
- Seated twist — Seated twists can be a great exercise and stretch to release tension and inflammation in your middle back and lower traps. To start, sit in a chair or on a mat. Place your right hand on your left knee and turn your head and upper body toward the left. You should feel a stretch in your torso or mid-back. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
- Chin-up — Chin-ups can be an effective strengthening exercise for your lower traps. First, grasp a pullup bar with your palms facing you, about shoulder width apart. Fully extend your arms and cross your feet behind you. Stick your chest out so that your middle and lower back are curved. Then, pull yourself up until your head is above the bar, while keeping your elbows as close to your body as possible. Hold for a second and then gently lower yourself down. Repeat as necessary.
- Y raise — Y raises are one of the most common strengthening exercises for the lower traps. First, lie facedown on the floor with a straight and neutral spine. Touch your feet together and extend your arms over your head until you form a Y shape with your body. Then, squeeze your shoulder blades together while keeping your torso still. Both arms should raise off the floor. Lower your arms back to the floor and repeat.
Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT to exercise your lower traps
At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and can help you find lower traps exercises that work for you.
Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.
Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your back concerns.