Activities to avoid and change,
Strategies for quick relief,
Stretching for longer-lasting relief,
Corrective Exercises, Yoga, and more…
Activities To Avoid or Change:
This is one of the most active trigger points among clients because there are so many ways to activate the pattern and the trapezius is hard to avoid moving during the normal day. If the stiff neck or headache is persistent see your bodyworker for lasting relief.
This problem can be hard to resolve when a yank on the shoulder has created a problem in the joints on either end of the clavicle. A binding or mild separation in the acromioclavicular joint can perpetuate this trigger point activity.
If you sit at a desk with your elbows supported by armrests, this muscle will shorten, and the headache will usually lessen. Unfortunately, when you get up from the desk this part of the trapezius will stretch as your shoulder drops. The headache will then get worse as the trapezius supports the weight of the shoulder.
A lot has been written about using chairs with the right armrests instead of actually dealing with the underlying problem. Your goal should be that the trapezius shortens and lengthens comfortably.
Here’s a post that talks about both approaches to the ergonomics of working at a home or office desk.
If you have a mild shoulder joint problem, the second part of this post that talks about supporting the shoulder will work better.
For temporary relief:
When the focus of pain is mostly at the temple with tension in your neck. It is unlikely that you would think of massaging just above the collar-bone to get rid of the headache. A little ice or heat on the fleshy part of the shoulder just above the collarbone helps to release this trigger point but seldom gives lasting relief to the stiff neck.
A little topical pain relief patch works well for lasting relief. These patches from Salonpas are a great value, effective, and clients seem to like the sensation in this spot. These patches don’t generate much smell and they offer lasting relief through the day when it gets aggravated from movement. Place the patch so that it starts right where her middle finger touches and lay it along that crest of the trapezius that extends up toward the neck. These are available in most grocery and drug stores or you can get them on Amazon.
Stretches for longer-lasting relief:
If the neck is stiff when moved in almost any direction, there is more than one muscle involved. Try this stretching exercise. You can do it several times a day and may get nice relief, especially if there are some gentle clicks as you are stretching.
This post has one of the most effective and easy exercises to relax and lower your shoulders. It does a great job of releasing this trigger point.
If this exercise makes the shoulder or headache more aggravated and painful, see a professional for help, you may have a mildly separated shoulder.
When people have chronic problems I suggest a gentle 8-10 minute routine of shoulder exercises, 3 times a week. 5 sets with about 1 minute in between. Pick exercises that drive the elbow up and back like; shoulder presses, upright rows, seated rows, posterior flyes, etc. Nothing too heavy. Soreness goes away between 2-3 weeks.
The upper trapezius lifts the collar bone and pulls the shoulder back, so twisting poses tend to stretch one side of the trapezius while lengthening the other.
Seated and lunging poses that twist to stretch hip rotators can work well for the upper trapezius. The back shoulder is closer to the base of the head and spine, contracting the upper trapezius on that side. The front shoulder drops down and slides around the ribs away from the base of the head, stretching the upper trapezius on that side.
Other patterns that may better match your pain pattern…
Extra Stiff and Painful?
When turning your head is very limited by pain, more than one of muscles that creates a “stiff neck” involved. Check out these posts on a stiff neck.
In this case, if the problem does not resolve with home care, consider professional help from your bodyworker. They will offer quicker, longer-lasting results.
This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began changing the format of the posts to include more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We’d love your feedback. We are adding posts and converting the old posts as quickly as time permits.
We spend a lot of time reading and working on our computers. Here is a simple guide for the more active, athletic body and one that needs more support. There are also suggestions for accessories that make your days at work (and afterward) more comfortable.
Please note that some of the product links in the posts are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission when you purchase through that link. I’ve personally used most of these products and believe are genuinely helpful. Some products aren’t appropriate for me so I recommend it based on my experience with clients or the reviews online. The commissions I make are small and not worth promoting lesser products that would not produce suitable value. And please note, I do not advocate buying something that you can’t afford or that you’re not yet ready to implement.