Strengthen Your Traps to Reduce Headaches

Do you feel pain during the day in the side region of your neck, under your jaw line by your ear, or in your temples?

If you answered “Yes”,

Do you do any of these things daily?
  • Carry a heavy bag
  • Work at a computer where the keyboard is either too low or too high
  • Slouch while sitting or driving
  • Have tight bra straps
If “YES”, you might find relief from your headaches by strengthening the trapezius muscle!

This research does an incredible job of explaining the traps and their function. Here’s an excerpt:

“The trapezius is an expansive muscle that has three distinct muscle sections; upper, middle and lower, with each having a distinct function and combining to assist in the overall function of the trapezius (Oatis 2004).

The actions of the three sections have been reported as follows (Oatis 2004):

Upper Trapezius – elevation of the scapula, adduction and upward rotation of the scapula; middle trapezius – adduction of the scapula; lower trapezius – depression, adduction and upward rotation of the scapula. In particular the upper and lower trapezius form an anatomical force couple that assists in stabilizing the scapula and maintaining a balance between these muscle segments is important for optimum function (Oatis 2004). Further the lower fibres have been reported to play an important role in posterior tilt and upward rotation of the scapula during shoulder elevation (Ludewig et al 1996). Therefore, the lower trapezius and serratus anterior are an important target for rehabilitation and prevention of shoulder dysfunction and impingement syndromes (Ludewig & Cook 2000).

The Lower Trapezius has been shown to be best activated with the arm raise overhead exercise in the prone position performed at approximately 120° (Reinold et al 2009) to 135° of abduction or with the arm positioned in line with the lower fibres of trapezius (Fig 22.12) (Ekstrom et al 2003, Ekstrom & Osborn 2004).




In 2012, Meridel I. Gatterman and Bonnie L. McDowell released a book including the following with regards to the trapezius:

“It is probably the muscle most often beleaguered by trigger points,8 possibly because of its function as a stabilizer of the upper extremities. Once injured, trigger points often become chronic because of the frequent static loading of this muscle.”

In summary, because the traps stabilize the neck and the head, weak traps can result in pain in these areas.

The traps are one of the muscles which I’ve focused heavily on strengthening since the concussion to increase my capability to do little things such as carrying a bag or working at a computer.

Weak traps, concussion or not, can result in headaches from daily activities using these muscles! My favourite way to strengthen the lower and mid traps is with straight arm cable pull downs.

                               Starting Position                                    End of Motion


Shrugs are another great exercise to strengthen the traps; more so the upper!


Truly, strengthening the traps has been one of the greatest catalysts in my concussion recovery- I hope that you find relief through this strategy as well!


Mikaila 🙂





Anatomical Trapezius Image source:


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