T Nation

Muscle Relaxer as Therapy?


I've had a trap injury for about six months and it hasn't responded too any therapy or rest. There's little training I can do because even movements where the traps are not involved, the act of straining alone is enough to make it tighten on me. So my training consists of light weight movements that don't involve the traps at all. I can't even do upper body on the opposite side.

One thing that does seem to give me relief is a prescription muscle relaxer I had leftover from a snowboarding mishap a few years ago. I've found that half a pill gives me relief for about 18 hours. The bottle says take two every 6 hours. This got me to thinking, what if I took 1 pill every 12 hours for two weeks, would my trap forget that it wants to spasm or would I just be back to where I was once i stopped taking them?

Any thoughts on this idea? Better yet, any experience???


IMO, your trap MAY improve slightly, but would likely return back to the way it was once you are out of the medication.

You need to find out what is causing the pain/spasm and address that issue. What kind of therapy have you received and from whome did you receive it?


When I had a shoulder injury the only way I could rehab it was by using muscle relaxers before the sessions. It kept the spasms at bay and allowed me to restrengthen the muscle without pinching or pain. Try a session or two with them and focus on a nice smooth range of motion and a good stretch and flex with the trap.


Gotta treat the cause not the symptom. I just got over a similar injury. Lost all nerve conductivity to my right triceps, the lateral head, right pec and my entire right posterior capsule. had an almost constant ache in my arm. Couldn't do anything. Took some time off. Didn't help. Tried muscle relaxors, temporarily relieved the pain, but as soon as i stopped taking them all the symptoms were back bc i hadn't fixed the problem. every time i would try to lift again, even light, my right side would tighten up. it was steming from a knott in my trap and in my rhomboid that was putting pressure on those nerves.

Professional deep tissue massage helped some. Active release on the rhomboid helped alot from a chiropractor. multiple daily sessions of stretching the upper trap helped alot. and it took a sold 6 weeks of progressing weights, avoiding failure, and I'd say im back to full strength now. Higher frequency helped, push ups, trying to activate the scapula, partial range of motion exercises. Pool workouts and hot tub helped too. Fear not there is light at the end of the tunnel, it was a little scary for a while but after 6 weeks Im above pre injury measurements, strenght isnt all the way back but it's coming up quickly. Hope that helps. Hang in there.


The thing is I'm wondering if the spasming is the problem and it's self perpetuating.

Massage therapy with active release didn't work. It felt good right after but as soon as I returned to normal life like going out to the car, it would start tightening up again. Chiropracter didn't help. Ultra light weight is fine (except for being mind blowingly boring) but I'm not able to progress and have to stick with the rediculously light. For instance shrugs with just the bar or lateral raises with no more than 2.5. Less direct upper body stuff is mostly light bands. I can do pec flys at normal weight. That's the only upper movement I've found.


I'd cut the shrugs and the lat raises for a while. You may need to limit some of your exercises and really focus on strengthening your posterior capsule. Alot of times but not always, injuries like this can be caused from anterior tightness which leads to posterior instability. Working on your daily postrue may help also, sitting up right in chairs, shoulders down and back.

Same thing when standing or walking... dont have to walk around looking like you're trying to start a fight, but practicing good posture can stimulate those muscles into firing properly again. I switched from sleeping with 2 pillows under my head to sleeping with no pillows. The rational was the overnight flexion in my neck was aggravating my neck and back.

Machine variations of pressing and db's were easier for me. DB's for OHP, real light at first, incline, also light, couldn't bench so i did push ups, set of 3 before my shoulder gave out, curls, pully triceps pushdown, eased into machine bench, chin grip for pulldowns on the machine were all i could do but eventually worked in overhand grip and worked in real chins and eventually pull ups.

But i really focused on anything that had me squeezing my shoulder blades "down and back". daily stretching of your pec and biceps paired with strengthening rear delts, rhomboids, lower traps and lats. Shrugs gave me alot of problems so i cut them until i felt 100%. something like Waterbury's "bodybuilding's next frontier" program could really be helpful. Frequency and controlling fatigue helped me alot, didn't push it on every workout but pushed for benchmark achievements. I did 20lb db's for 6 and got kinda tight last time, try to get a solid 6 this time or 25 for an acceptable 6.

But if you can't do full movements, do partials. And strive for improvement there or strive for working progressively towards a full ROM. Keep a log, and if after a month or so you haven't experienced any gains in strength/stability I'd get an MRI on your neck or thoracic spine to check for any nerve damage stemming from the vertebrae. I know it's frustrating but the body is pretty good at repairing itself, it's just about finding what your body is preventing your body from getting back on track. Keep us posted.


Would something like working on a split make you spasm? I know you might not be flexible, but it would at least give you a goal in training, which you seem to lack right now. As for your traps, can you move your shoulder through a full range ROM without weights? If not, I'd recommend dropping weights, or at least weight training frequency. Can you still sprint? I know your a more experienced fellow but some 100m sprints at under 2/3 speed could give you at least the illusion of active training.


You typically won't have selective spasming for no reason. It sounds like the treatment you have received so far just hasn't illuminated the underlying cause of the spasm. Spasm is typically a reaction to some type of instability or injury as a protective mechanism


I don't know if spasm is the right word. It hurts and it starts to tighten up. Not a full on cramp or anything like that, just a little bit tight.


When you say "split" do you mean a split like Chest & Tri, Back & Bi? If so I've been doing upper/lower for that last few years.

I have started running since I can't do much weights and I do need the conditioning anyway. I even tried a plyo workout on monday. I tried not to use my arms much but it still aggavated the shoulder.

By the way, training legs is a challenge with a Trap/Levator injury. I recently figured out I can use the 45 degree leg press by reaching behind my head and grabbing the head support to get quality reps in. Before I was not holding onto anything and wasn't able to use decent weight that way. Past a certain weight (670) I'd need to pull myself down.


I'm assuming you mean upper trap. Just a stab in the dark but it could be protective tension or overuse of the trap/levator due to some inferior or posterior shoulder restriction. When you had ART did they work and of the cuff muscles or in your armpit or did they just work trap? Did they watch you move before and after treatment? Did they make any comment on GH vs scapulothoracic motion?


It's either upper trap or Levator, possibly both. Over-use for sure. My right rotator cuff is pretty fucked up and my left scap was giving me trouble so I was hammering my traps. I think my mistake was not reducing the trap volume as my scap improved and I was able to add other movements.

My shoulder mobility is really good except for very poor internal and external rotation of the right arm, which is the same side as the trap injury. Despite my fucked up rotator cuff, I really don't think this injury is due to any movement restrictions. Of course I'm willing to look into anything.

The message therapists worked the whole back, chest & shoulders but focussed mainly on the trap & levator.


Goddamn lifters who try and think things through. I meant a literal split, like a gymnast. I think a little added flexibility would do you good. Have you tried goblet squats? They don't sound promising anyways given your info


Have you noticed a difference in decreasing the volume of upper trap work?

If your IR & ER are poor then it will affect your other motions, either through direct restriction or compensation. It isn't solely about quantity, but quality of motion as well. What I mean by this is, if you can raise your arm up to the side all the way to your ear, great, but if the last 20 degrees of motion is like you added 20 pounds of resistance, then you might have some restriction that is causing the levator/trap to work overtime to get that last bit of motion. The movement restriction might be subtle, or you might be a great compensator, and it takes a trained eye to see those differences sometimes.

It sounds like the massage therapists took the old shotgun approach rather than took into account what your specific problem is, and where it's coming from. Although it's impossible to say for sure without having you in front of me, from what you're describing it sounds like the trap/levator are secondary casualties of something else.

Were they actually ART certified, or did they just say they did ART? If you go on the ART website you can find providers in your area. I would suggest finding someone who is master's level and/or biomechanics certified. Depending on your area I might be able to point you in the direction of a good provider as well, feel free to PM me.


My volume on trap work has been close to zero for the last 3 months. Weight so light you can hardly count it. And much of the last 3 months it has literally been zero.

I understand what you are saying about the internal & xternal rotation and am highly aware there could be a correlation. My rotator cuff has been improving steadily but ever so slowly over the last 5 years. Are you proposing I should try to speed that process up with active release on the cuff to help fascillitate improvement in the Trap/Levator?

The guy I saw for massage therapy is not certified in active release. He said the certification course was as expensive as a whole year of school so he's opted not to do it. He said he understands the concept and applies it to the best of his ability. He did use a shotgun approach and frankly I didn't mind or see a damn thing wrong with that. It's fucking hard to figure out exactly what's going on with some of these injuries and even harder to know what the best therapy will be. I'm sure some are better at it than others but nobodies going to be right all the time.

Just knowing weather to apply hot or cold is a mystery. My plantar fascia loves ice hates heat. My elbow loves ice and heat. My piriformis hates ice loves heat. My rotator cuff hates ice loves heat. I'm staring to think my levator likes ice followed by heat. It's tough to know 'cause it's a slow process and so many other factors involved in life.