How to Release Overactive/Restricted Upper Traps – Relieves Neck + Shoulder Pain, Headaches and More

Those pesky upper traps!

They want to work for us ALL the time. But it’s not their fault. We’ve trained them to be overactive by the ways we sit, stand, work out and move through activities like running and cycling, and how we carry our purses or backpacks.

For a long term “fix” here, we have to get those upper traps to stop working for other muscles like our rhomboids, low traps, low lats and our core. Yes, our traps will actually work for our core to stabilize us through certain movements and activities if our deep core stabilizers aren’t engaged. Click here to read/watch my post on the 3 “R’s” of better posture, which is a great place to start reversing this pattern, and watch out for new episodes addressing this one. It’s so chronic I’ll be covering it from various angles indefinitely!

Today, I’ll show you how to stretch and release those fascial adhesions (aka “knots”) in your upper traps or shoulders.

These knots can cause all kinds of pain and discomfort, from shoulder and neck pain to arm issues, headaches and mid back pain to name a few.

You’ll need access to a barbell and rack for this one. Every gym has one.

Please watch the video for the best results!

How to get the most out of this technique:

  • You can use a bare barbell, or if you want something a little less metalic/cold, try wrapping a towel around it, or use one of the various rack covers that most gyms provide.
  • You’re looking to do TWO things with this technique: 1) STRETCH all the tight fascia in this region which is achieved by pinning a piece of tissue and using your arm AND head to stretch in opposing directions, which creates a good stretch through the whole system (fascia is connective tissue, and as the name implies, it is all connected!) And 2) Find and break up or release the adhesion(s) in your upper traps. This one is more tricky.
  • Once you try the stretch part and feel like you’ve done a decent job at this, move on to finding and releasing the adhesion(s).
  • It may be helpful to start by palpating (feeling your hands) to find out where exactly that sucker is.
  • Then, your job is to pin the knot to the barbell and use head and arm movement to “shear” across the knot and break it up. Think about using your HEAD movement the most here, but make sure you move S L O W L Y !!! Slow movement will reveal that you’re getting it, or tell you you’re not.
  • If you can’t get that knot to “clunk” under the barbell, then try placing the barbell in a different location – maybe farther back towards your posterior and away from your collarbone. That usually does it for me, but everyone is different here.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment! Try different positions, head movements, reaching your arm or leaving it loose. Each will produce a different sensation and technique in the upper trap. Basically – find what works for YOU and your body.

 

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About Elisha Celeste

Let me show you how to decode your body’s messages, listen to your gut, get curious about your pain and turn physical, psychological and emotional adversity into your best ally for finding freedom and joy.

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