Do you find yourself rubbing the muscles between your neck and shoulder because they are sore? Or, do you suffer from headaches that affect the back of the neck, side of the neck, or even behind the eye? You’re not alone! This muscle tightness (and resulting headaches) may originate from the upper trapezius muscle in your back.
The trapezius muscle is a large band of muscle that spans the back of the neck, across the shoulders, and down to your mid-back that allows our bodies to tilt and turn the head, shrug, steady our shoulders and twist our arms. Many individuals experience soreness and tight knots in this muscle due to overuse from poor sitting posture.
Poor sitting posture (rounded shoulders, head slumped forward, etc.) forces the upper trapezius muscle to support the head and neck against gravity — a job it is not designed to do. As such, it becomes overworked, painful, and feels “tight”. The head which normally weighs about 12 pounds (green), can functionally weigh almost triple that with poor forward head posture.
AVOID THE UPPER TRAPEZIUS STRETCH!
A common, but flawed, the recommendation for those suffering from upper trapezius muscle pain is to stretch the muscle. Although the muscle may feel “tight,” it is actually just in a contracted state from being overused. The dysfunctional muscle is already in an over-stretched position. Thus, one should AVOID the classically taught STRETCH below, and instead, restore proper sitting or standing (recommended) posture and STRENGTHEN the upper trapezius functionally.
AVOID THIS CLASSIC STRETCH!
1. FARMER CARRY
Begin by grasping a weight (dumbbell or kettlebell) in either hand, standing straight while bracing the core and glutes. Looking straight ahead, take small, quick steps forward for an allotted time or distance (i.e. 30 seconds or to a specific area in your gym/house).
2. BIRD DOG
Begin on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Reach your left arm forward and left leg back, making sure to keep the spine still. Return to the starting position and switch sides to complete one rep.
3. QUADRUPED REACH THROUGH
Begin on your hands and knees. Keep one hand firmly planted on the ground, and reach across your body with your other hand as far as you can without twisting your hips.
If you have tried the above exercises and still feel pain in your muscles or a dull, throbbing headache, call the physical therapists at Virginia Therapy & Fitness Center! Your care team will create a custom treatment plan tailored to your needs that will include hands-on therapy, trigger point dry needling, and other techniques to release the muscles and reduce pain and tension.