Trapezius

Diagram of Posterior Muscles of the Human Body

Diagram of posterior muscles.

The trapezius muscle is a large flat superficial triangular muscle covering the back of the neck and shoulder.

It is sometimes described in terms of three parts or regions of the trapezius muscle. They are the:

  • Superior (upper) fibres, also called the 'descending fibres'
  • Middle fibres, and the
  • Inferior (lower) fibres, also called the 'ascending fibres'.

Origin, Insertion and Actions of the (whole) Trapezius muscle:

Points of Origin:
  • Occipital bone, which is at the back and base of the skull
  • Spinous processes of vertebrae:
    • C7 (the 7th cervical, i.e. neck, vertebra)
    • T1-T12 (all the the thoracic vertebrae)
Points of Insertion:
Actions:
  • Elevates the shoulder girdle, which can also be described as elevating the clavicle
  • Depresses the scapula ('shoulder bone'), e.g. against resistance when using arms to push oneself away from a surface or object
  • Rotates the scapula ('shoulder bone'), as in some arm movements
  • Adducts the scapula
  • Extends the head
  • The upper fibres of the trapezius muscle also help to resist depression of the shoulder girdle when the body is mechanically loaded e.g. by objects being carried by hand or across the shoulder/s.

It is not surprising that such an extensive muscle has so many actions. Different textbooks and websites list and describe the actions of the trapezius muscle in slightly different ways. There is no single consistent number of actions of trapezius muscle. The most detailed descriptions indicate the actions of specific parts (groups of fibres) of this muscle, together with examples of movements caused or supported by the trapezius muscle. An example of a short list of its actions is:

  • Stabilises the scapula
  • Elevation, rotation, and adduction of the scapula
  • Some extension and rotation of the neck.

Overall, many of the actions of the trapezius muscle involve moving the scapula bone and/or the clavicle bone or head/neck.

The trapezius muscle is labelled on the diagrams of the human anterior muscles and the human posterior muscles.

The word 'trapezius' is derived from the Greek word trapezoides, which means 'table shaped'.

More about Muscles:

The following are some popular pages in the section about the human muscular system:

There are also more pages about the words used to describe muscles (terminology), the anatomy and physiology of muscles, muscular disorders and associated topics. See also books about sports medicine.

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