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The Trapezius – An MSR Approach

Updated: Apr 1

Back of Man's Body Showing Trapezius Muscle

The trapezius muscle plays a key role in upper body movement, impacting posture and dynamic activities. This article examines its anatomy and biomechanics, underscoring its influence on the upper spine and shoulder function.

We'll analyze the trapezius's effect on shoulder blade coordination and arm mobility, considering the consequences of its dysfunctions on musculoskeletal health. Subsequently, we present MSR techniques aimed at enhancing trapezius function to refine treatments for back and neck ailments. Our exploration follows a structured article index to navigate the trapezius's role within the MSR framework effectively.

Article Index:


Anatomical Image Showing Trapezius Muscle

Trapezius Anatomy & Biomechanics

The trapezius, a key muscle spanning the neck, shoulders, and back, is integral to the complex biomechanics of the upper body. It plays an essential role in the stability and movement of the scapula, neck, and thoracic spine, critical for both static posture and dynamic motions.

Origin and Insertion:

  • The trapezius has a broad origin, spanning the occipital bone, the ligamentum nuchae, and the spinous processes of the cervical and thoracic vertebrae. It fans out to insert along the clavicle, the acromion, and the spine of the scapula.


  • This muscle receives its nerve supply from the spinal accessory nerve (cranial nerve XI), with proprioceptive fibers from the cervical spinal nerves (C3 and C4). This innervation pattern is essential for its motor function and the coordination of shoulder and neck movements.

Biomechanical Role:

  • Biomechanically, the trapezius muscle is versatile, enabling elevation, retraction, and rotation of the scapula. It supports neck extension and lateral flexion and plays a role in thoracic spine movements. The lower fibers assist in scapular depression and upward rotation, contributing to a wide range of arm movements.

From an MSR perspective, the trapezius's function in scapular dynamics is pivotal. Therapeutic focus on this muscle aims to address imbalances and dysfunctions that contribute to neck and shoulder pathologies. By manipulating the trapezius's biomechanical actions, MSR interventions strive to enhance upper body stability and mobility.


MSR Logo

Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment

Initial Setup:

  • Patient Position: The patient is seated allowing for full access to the trapezius muscle while ensuring relaxation of associated musculature.

  • Practitioner Stance: The practitioner adopts a stable yet dynamic stance to facilitate effective application of MSR techniques.

Basic Technique:

  • Treatment: The practitioner employs precise hand or forearm placements and directed pressure along the trapezius muscle, from the neck to the mid-back region.

  • Support Hand: The opposite hand provides stabilization and assists in generating appropriate tension through bilateral traction and circumduction.

  • Synchronization: Coordinated movements and pressure are applied, focusing on the trapezius muscle's origin at the occipital bone down to the lower thoracic vertebrae.

  • Pressure Application: Pressure is progressively increased when needed, maintaining patient comfort while engaging the different sections of the trapezius. pressure is decreased when applying bilateral traction and circuduction.

Force Generation:

  • Bilateral Traction: The practitioner can modulate the force by directing the patient's arm and shoulder in specific directions to align with the trapezius fibers.

  • Multidirectional Engagement: Adjusting the patient’s position, the practitioner can enhance the tension on the trapezius muscle to address its fiber orientation effectively.

MSR Demonstration Video:

  • The accompanying video features Dr. Abelson performing MSR techniques on the trapezius muscle. He demonstrates the importance of bilateral traction, and circumduction while altering the type of contact.

Best Practices:

  • Time Allocation: Ensure that each MSR session is conducted with ample time, allowing for a thorough and gradual release of the trapezius muscle.

  • Kinetic Chains: Acknowledge the trapezius muscle's role in the broader kinetic chain, understanding its influence on adjacent and interconnected musculature.


  • Safety First: Always prioritize the patient's safety, considering any contraindications and ensuring informed consent before proceeding.

  • Gentle Techniques: Apply MSR methods carefully to avoid aggravating any pre-existing conditions and to ensure patient comfort.

  • Monitor Patient Feedback: Be attentive to the patient's feedback and adjust pressure and techniques accordingly throughout the MSR session.


Kinetic Chain Image

Functional Kinetic Chains

Grasping the kinetic chains related to he trapezius muscle is critical for a holistic approach to musculoskeletal function and the practical application of Motion Specific Release (MSR). This understanding permits us to appreciate:

Direct Myofascial Connections:

The trapezius is deeply integrated with the superficial back line of fascia and collaborates with the cervical and thoracic muscles. This myofascial continuity plays a role in posture and upper back stability. Dysfunction in the trapezius can cause widespread compensatory issues, affecting the whole body's mechanics.

Superficial Back Line:
  • The trapezius contributes to the superficial back line, facilitating force transmission across the back, crucial for spinal stability and head mobility.

Levator Scapulae and Rhomboids:
  • These muscles work in synergy with the trapezius to manage scapular elevation and retraction, vital for shoulder mechanics.


The trapezius operates in conjunction with other muscles to safeguard the stability and motion of the scapula and spine.

Serratus Anterior:
  • Works with the lower fibers of the trapezius to rotate the scapula upward, essential for arm elevation.

Latissimus Dorsi:
  • Together with the trapezius, it assists in scapular depression and contributes to the movements of the upper limb.


These muscles offer foundational support, enhancing the trapezius's effective function.

Rotator Cuff Muscles:
  • Provide shoulder stability, which is necessary for the trapezius to perform its actions effectively on the scapula.

Deep Neck Flexors:
  • Support cervical posture and alignment, complementing the trapezius's role in neck stability.


Muscles that provide a counterbalance to the trapezius ensure equilibrium in neck, shoulder, and thoracic mechanics.

Pectoralis Major and Minor:
  • Counter the trapezius's scapular retraction and depression, playing a role in forward shoulder posture.

An integrated perspective of the trapezius within the upper body kinetic chains is indispensable for formulating precise MSR interventions. Recognizing the interconnectedness of the upper back's musculoskeletal framework is a cornerstone for effective clinical outcomes.



Exercise plays a crucial role in myofascial therapy, aimed at improving flexibility, building strength, and promoting balance. Tailored exercises are chosen to match each individual's unique requirements, and the accompanying videos provide examples of potential exercises that may be recommended depending on the case at hand.

5 Minute Neck Pain Relief

This simple routine, which should be performed 3 to 4 times per day, is tailored to help alleviate pain, increase mobility, and promote overall neck health. Whether you are experiencing neck strain from poor posture, tension headaches, or simply want to maintain a healthy cervical spine, these exercises will offer valuable support.

Myofascial Release For Upper Traps!

The function of the trapezius muscle is to stabilize and move the scapula. The upper trapezius elevates and upwardly rotates the scapula and extends the neck. It is a very common area to store tension, especially when working on a computer. Try the following self-myofascial release exercise you will enjoy the results. Video available for the public June 6th 2024.

Effective Compound Arm Exercises

Compound arm exercises effectively engage multiple muscle groups and joints concurrently, offering a comprehensive approach to upper body strength training. By utilizing the cooperative dynamics of muscles, tendons, and joints in the arms, these exercises deliver a thorough workout.

4 Cardinal Planes - Shoulder Stabilization

The 4 Cardinal Planes shoulder stabilization exercise works on proprioception, balance, and coordination for your shoulder and its surrounding muscles as it moves through various ranges of motion.



This article has delineated the trapezius muscle's critical roles in upper body biomechanics and its treatment through Motion Specific Release (MSR). Emphasizing the muscle's influence on postural dynamics and movement, the MSR techniques outlined aim to rehabilitate trapezius function and facilitate optimal musculoskeletal health. By integrating these methods with a personalized approach to exercise, healthcare practitioners can enhance their therapeutic strategies, ensuring effective management of trapezius-related conditions and contributing to the broader goal of functional longevity in patient care.



Photo Dr. Brian Abelson

Dr. Abelson's approach to musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he focuses on integrating the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems developer, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.


MSR Instructor Mike Burton Smiling

Join Us at Motion Specific Release

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Join MSR Pro and start tapping into the power of Motion Specific Release. Have access to:

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  • Article Library: Our Article Index Library with over 45+ of the most common MSK conditions we all see in clinical practice. This is a great opportunity to educate your patients on our processes. Each article covers basic condition information, diagnostic procedures, treatment methodologies, timelines, and exercise recommendations. All of this is in an easy-to-prescribe PDF format you can directly send to your patients.

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Integrating MSR into your practice can significantly enhance your clinical practice. The benefits we mentioned are only a few reasons for joining our MSR team.



  1. Abelson, B., Abelson, K., & Mylonas, E. (2018, February). A Practitioner's Guide to Motion Specific Release, Functional, Successful, Easy to Implement Techniques for Musculoskeletal Injuries (1st edition). Rowan Tree Books.

  2. Akhtar, M. W., Karimi, H., & Gilani, S. A. (2017). Effectiveness of manual therapies: The UK evidence report. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 20, 23-38.

  3. Cools, A. M., Dewitte, V., Lanszweert, F., Notebaert, D., Roets, A., Soetens, B., ... & Witvrouw, E. E. (2007). Rehabilitation of scapular muscle balance: which exercises to prescribe? The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 35(10), 1744-1751.

  4. Hwang, U. J., Kwon, O. Y., Jeon, I. C., Weon, J. H., Kim, T. H., & Jung, D. Y. (2019). Effects of upper trapezius strengthening on scapular kinematics: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 28(7), 688-693.

  5. Lewit, K., & Olsanska, S. (2004). Clinical Importance of Active Examination in Rehabilitation and Manual Medicine. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 36(1), 49-54.

  6. Ludewig, P. M., & Cook, T. M. (2000). Alterations in shoulder kinematics and associated muscle activity in people with symptoms of shoulder impingement. Physical Therapy, 80(3), 276-291.

  7. Myers, T. W. (2001). Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. Churchill Livingstone.

  8. Neumann, D. A. (2010). Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Rehabilitation. St. Louis: Mosby.

  9. Page, P., Frank, C. C., & Lardner, R. (2010). Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance: The Janda Approach. Human Kinetics.

  10. Sahrmann, S. A. (2011). Movement System Impairment Syndromes of the Extremities, Cervical and Thoracic Spines. St. Louis: Mosby.

  11. Schleip, R., & Jäger, H. (2012). Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body. Churchill Livingstone.

  12. Simons, D. G., Travell, J. G., & Simons, L. S. (1999). Travell & Simons' Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual (2nd ed., Vol. 1). Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.

  13. Stecco, C., & Hammer, W. I. (2018). Fascial Manipulation for Musculoskeletal Pain. Piccin Nuova Libraria.

  14. Szeto, G. P., Straker, L., & Raine, S. (2002). A field comparison of neck and shoulder postures in symptomatic and asymptomatic office workers. Applied Ergonomics, 33(1), 75-84.

Article Index

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