Trapezius Muscle: Function, Location & Innervation

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Has your neck, shoulders, or upper back ever been sore or tight? If you are like the majority of people all over the world, you answered a resounding YES! The trapezius muscle is one of the large muscles found in these areas of the body. Learn all about the trapezius muscle in this lesson.

Trapezius Muscle

Is your trapezius muscle working properly? To find out, try this quick physical assessment:

  1. Stand up straight with your arms hanging naturally at your sides.
  2. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears and then back down.
  3. Pinch your shoulder blades together.
  4. Now look straight up by tilting your head back.

Were you able to do all four of these steps? If so, your trapezius muscle, one of the largest back muscles, seems to be working just fine!

Trapezius Muscle: Location

The trapezius muscle extends from the occipital bone (located at the base of the skull) to the middle of the back. This muscle is divided into three parts or sections, which include:

  • Upper section: Located at the back of the neck
  • Middle section: Located in the shoulders and upper back
  • Lower section: Located in the middle of the back

The trapezius muscle is located in the neck, shoulders, and mid- and upper-back regions of the body.
trapezius muscle

Trapezius Muscle: Function

The function of the trapezius muscle depends on which section of the muscle is working. The functions of this muscle include:

Section of Trapezius Function of the Section of Muscle
Upper Elevates the scapula (shoulder blades), which is the motion of shrugging the shoulders.
Extends the neck, which is the motion of bending the neck straight back
Middle Adducts the scapula, which is the motion of retracting or pinching the shoulder blades together
Lower Lowers or depresses the scapula

One of the functions of the trapezius muscle is to lift or shrug the shoulders.
shoulder shrug

Additionally, all three of these sections of the trapezius muscle work together to stabilize the scapula. For example, when you carry lots of grocery bags from your car to your kitchen, all sections of the trapezius muscle will contract in order to stabilize the scapula or shoulder blades.

The trapezius muscle also functions to stabilize the scapula when you carry something at your side, such as a bag of groceries.
carrying groceries

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