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Pulled Trap, Possible Spinal Trouble


I pulled something in my upper back about a week ago. I don't know exactly when it happened. It came on kind of gradually. I do know that around the time it came on I had one/was doing quite a lot of upper back work fairly consecutively along with re-introducing deadlifts after several weeks off from them (I had to switch my schedule around).

At first the pain was around the top of my rhomboids/mid traps. I thought I could train through it and tried to overhead press. On the second rep of my first work set I pulled my right upper trap rather badly.

The original injury was about two weeks ago and the second one was about one week ago. I've been foam rolling and resting the whole area since. I bench pressed pain free the day before yesterday (shoulders back and down of course). Yesterday I did some very light dumbbell rows and some very light shrugs. The problem seems to have been gradually getting better, but this morning I really screwed the whole area up pushing a freaking grocery cart. I couldn't even carry the bags in without a fair amount of pain.

So right now I have a little bit of aching between my shoulder blades with my arms/shoulders at rest. Pulling my shoulders down is fine. Pulling them back hurts a fair amount and shrugging them up hurts a little bit more. Lifting my arm makes the opposite trap hurt. This happens with either arm. The pain seems to be right in the mid/upper fibers of my trapezius.

I'm resting the area totally. Foam rolling it a fair amount. Little bit of icing sometimes. I've taken two epsom salts baths which seem to have helped a little.

I have three questions.

First, I really don't think this is a big enough problem that I should get professional help, but I don't really have any context to put it in. I've never really pulled anything badly before. So, could this be a big problem that I should get checked out.

Second, I want to fix this completely ASAP. Are my recovery methods good? Specifically foam rolling. It seems to make the area feel a little better, but I don't want to stress the area either. Also, is there anything more I could do?

And third, WTF! What is this and how can I keep it from happening again? I assume it's from jumping right into deadlifting along with a lot more upper back work than I'm used to. Next time I guess I should work everything back in more gradually.

Thanks for taking the time to look at this. I really appreciate it.


Were you doing any type of bent-over shrugs or similar upper back work? I have had similar issues when doing these types of exercises.


How is your thoracic mobility?


No bentover shrugs but I copied from my log two weeks ago (didn’t realize it’s been that long).

I have to switch my schedule around a bit.

3 sets pullups AMRAP
Strict one arm rows triples with 105

No face pulls or curls.

~2 inch deficit deadlift with ~285 (possibly a bit more): A few double overhand singles and then one or two more with a mixed grip. I kept the bar close to my shins and my lumbar stayed nice and neutral. The last two were grinders. I used rather longer rest periods than usual.

This felt good but I think I’m a bit de-conditioned to deadlifting. No more replacing it.

I noticed slight pain after this point. That’s the only back work I did until the next Tuesday where I did knee level rack pulls and deadlifts. On Wednesday I did a few face pulls too. Friday I realized I had a problem and skipped deadlifting. Then I really screwed up my right trap military pressing on Saturday. Since then I’ve been resting it, getting overconfident, and then re-pulling it. Fucking thing.


My thoracic mobility is pretty bad actually. I’ve meant to work on it, but it’s gone to the wayside along with foam rolling. Terrible, I know.


this may not help, but…

what you described is what i dealt with many years ago. i found that some vertabrae had gotten out of whack and was pinching a nerve right between the shoulder blades. i had a personal training client at the time that was a chiro and he found which ones, popped them back in place and almost immediately, within 15 minutes all pain, and even loss of ROM, was gone. the next day i worked out hard and felt great.

determined over the next few weeks with it happening again that i was pulling more on one side. not while working out but in everyday stuff. and at the time i was selling/installing weight/gym equipment. once i solved that problem no more issue.


Thanks for your input. I do have some pain with just thoracic movement and the vertebrae crack and crunch sometimes when I move them. They also hurt a little to the touch. So that rings true. I think I need to get this checked out. Do you think I should go right to a chiro or see a PT first or what? I have no experience at all with this kind of thing.

Also, I managed to re-injure the area yet again and now there’s some “crunching” when I move my shoulder blades. Like grinding in the muscles or something. It’s hard to describe.

Thank you all very much.


An update; the area’s feeling better. I’ve been heating it for about half an hour every 3-4 hours. I’m going to try and let it heal fully this time. I’ve learned my lesson (hopefully). If it still doesn’t clear up, I’ll get help. I don’t have much experience with injuries like this so does that sound right? As always, thanks for your help.


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Thanks for your advice. Do you mind if I PM you the website of a chiro near me I was thinking of?

Also, my situation seems much better. I’ve been resting it almost completely. Also, when I lie on the ground with my arms resting on the ground too (taking stress off the strained muscles) and curve my thoracic spine around I actually don’t have any pain. I think I was mistaken when I wrote that JUST thoracic movement caused pain. Also the grinding is very much less than before. Would you still suggest seeing a chiro? I hate to say it, but I’m not in the best financial situation and I doubt my parents would pay for it unless I could show them I was in trouble and that a chiropractor could fix it.

Thank you very much for your help and good luck with your contest!