Symptoms associated with this condition include aching, burning, tightness, and tender trigger points of the muscles surrounding the neck, usually in the upper trapezius muscle. Often, pain is felt between the shoulder blades as well. These symptoms usually worsen as the day progresses and feel better in the morning or with rest.
The muscle itself is rarely the cause of this condition. There is usually an underlying cause for the muscle pain that is causing the muscle to contract at a low level. When this occurs, the muscle never has a chance to relax and becomes very painful. This can be due to undue stress from prolonged sitting, poor posture, psychological stress, or any number of neck conditions such as instability or low level inflammatory processes. Occasionally patients who overuse their neck muscles while performing normal breathing can have these myofascial pain syndromes.
Manual therapy interventions are found to be very beneficial in treatment of this condition. Techniques of joint mobilization, deep tissue mobilization and muscular retraining are proven to be significantly effective treatments. Specific exercises to improve blood flow through the muscles are beneficial. An individualized exercise program is developed for each patient’s specific problem often focusing on the deep neck muscles and the postural muscles of the shoulders and shoulder blades. Re-education of breathing patterns is also found to be helpful. Relaxation techniques and assistance in stress management are key components of the treatment when stress is noted to be a significant source of the symptoms. Education on proper techniques and postures for work, athletic and daily activity is an essential component of treatment.