4 Ways to Loosen Your Trapezius Muscles
The trapezius muscle is a large kite shaped, superficial back muscle that extends from the base of your neck, across your upper shoulders, through your middle back and finishes at the lower aspect of your thoracic spine.
It has three distinct parts; upper, middle and lower that are responsible for some movement of your neck and upper back, and support the control and movement of your shoulder blades.
Many people are familiar with pain and tightness in their upper trapezius. These are the muscles fibres that extend from the neck and spread out across their shoulders. This may arise due to hunching your shoulders as a result of stress and tension, or poor postural habits often associated with desk based work. Headaches can also be experienced as a result of upper trapezius tightness.
What can you do if this affects you?
1. Check for tightness throughout your day
Whether you’re sitting at your desk or out for a run, periodically check where your shoulders are. Are they relaxed, or are your traps contracted? Are you hunching your shoulders?
In an ideal state, your shoulders should be in line with your collarbone and not elevated or rounding forward. You can easily check this by simply letting your shoulders ‘fall’ or ‘drop’ . You may realize you have held them in a shrugged or elevated position for too long, or too often.
2. Do shoulder shrugs
To release tension from your upper traps, do shoulder shrugs regularly throughout the day.
Exaggerate the movement by pulling your shoulders all the way to your ears, holding them there for a few seconds, and then letting them fall to a relaxed position. You can also loosen your traps by rolling your shoulders in both directions too.
– Forward stretch: Place both hands at the crown of your head and gently pull your head forward with your chin toward your neck as if you were nodding down. Hold this position for 10 to 20, and repeat 2-3 times.
– Side stretch: Place one hand on the crown of your head and gently pull your head to the same side so that your ear approaches your shoulder. For a stronger stretch, sit on the hand of the side you are stretching to depress the shoulder. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, and repeat 2-3 times before you switch to the opposite side.
– Diagonal stretch: Place one hand on the crown of your head and gently pull your head diagonally forward as if you are sniffing your armpit. For a stronger stretch, sit on the hand of the side you are stretching to depress the shoulder. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, and repeat 2-3 times before you switch to the opposite side.
4. Get a massage ball (or a massage) on your traps
You will need a wall and a firm round or spikey ball.
First, massage yourself by rolling the ball on your traps, with some pressure. You will feel how tight it is and there will likely be one spot that hurts the most. Wherever that spot is, stay there with your massage ball and slightly push. Hold that for at least 60 seconds or until you feel a release of tension.
If you feel the tightness into your upper back, more into your middle traps and between your shoulder blades, stand with your back to a wall and place the ball against the area that feels tight or sore, between your body and the wall. Then lean into the ball, and roll the ball up and down a little, and side to side to massage through your muscle.
Alternatively, targeted soft tissue techniques to your upper traps can bring great relief. This can be performed by a Myotherapist or Physiotherapist, and may involve soft tissue massage, deep tissue release, trigger point therapy and dry needling. Our clinicians can also assess your posture, provide you with specific exercises and an individualised program to improve your mobility and strength.