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Rock-hard Traps?

I recently created a post for social media on "rock-hard traps," and I decided to write a short blog to expand on this topic.

Many dental professionals have extremely tight and rigid trapezious muscles (specifically the upper traps) and oftentimes, develop pain in this area (trapezius myalgia).

The pain could be when they are working (prepping or scaling teeth, for example) or chronically during the day/night.

Many of us have also developed trigger points in the traps, further causing localized and referred pain and reduced range of motion.


Why is this?

There are many reasons for trapezius myalgia; previous trauma such as whiplash, skeletal issues, and other various medical conditions. But, a common factor is poor posture. In dentistry, unfortunately, we are prone to poor posture when working on our patients.


Motions that contribute to overworking the traps:

Repetitive reaching (when the arm is fully extended)

Elevating our shoulders

Forward head position

Arm abduction (chicken wing)

All of these movements when done for prolonged periods of time or done repetitively, cause tightness in the traps that can become chronic and lead to trapezius myalgia (TM).


Symptoms of TM are:

  • Headaches

  • Neck pain

  • Shoulder pain

  • Jaw pain

  • Stiff neck

  • Reduced range of motion of the neck and shoulder

  • Burning/tingling in the shoulder and arm

  • Tingling/numbness down the arm and into the hand


When I'm assessing clinicians, a common reason for the dangerous motions listed above is incorrect patient positioning. The patient's position dictates our own. If they aren't positioned correctly (for example, not being low enough), we tend to chicken-wing our arms and elevate our shoulders, which engages the traps. If not corrected, this becomes the "norm" and pain and dysfunction ensue.


This is why I created my new course, "All About Patient Positioning." It demonstrates in numerous videos exactly how we need to position our patients. It also describes a mirror technique to reduce abduction of our mirror arm (something I also see during assessments).


Whether you take my course, get an assessment, or simply work on body awareness, please limit these awkward and repetitive motions so you don't develop rock-hard traps!


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