Activities to avoid and change,
Strategies for quick relief,
Stretching for longer-lasting relief,
Corrective Exercises, Yoga, and more…
This trigger point pain pattern creates pain in the upper neck and tension when the muscle is compressed or stretched. You can get relief with some changes in your activity. As well, you can typically get lasting relief with a few simple exercises. An underlying chronic condition like fibromyalgia or structural problems in the upper neck makes getting relief more difficult. In those cases, See your bodywork professional.
Activities To Avoid or Change:
Once the trigger point is activated, there are a number of known activities that keep it aggravated.
Mainly, avoid compressing the muscle. A backpack, ill-fitted bra straps, a tight coat, or shoulder bag will press into this area and are known irritants and create additional microtrauma.
Also, activities that repeatedly or unevenly raise the shoulder aggravate this. Using a cane that is poorly fit is cited as a problem. I find it to be more likely, especially with middle-aged clientele, that leaning on the bars of a treadmill when fatigued aggravates it. As I mentioned in the first post, carrying buckets, bales, or blocks will irritate this as well.
Subtler activities that tilt and twist the neck while lifting the shoulder also agitate this trigger point. Twisting to the side while reaching back to tend to a child in a car, or playing the violin can agitate this. For one client, twisting quickly to answer his wife while sitting at the dinner table did the trick.
It could get aggravated if your kid hugs your neck like this but it’s probably worth it.
For Temporary Relief:
These self-care activities, like over-the-counter drugs, are not intended to replace appropriate medical attention. Some pain needs to be addressed by a professional. Some pain is not myofascial. You may employ these strategies improperly. If you have concerns about these self-care activities, get help from a professional. Use these suggestions and strategies with discretion and at your own risk. See your doctor when your pain is severe, persistent, or doesn’t respond to these simple suggestions.
Stretches and Exercises for Longer-Lasting Relief:
This pattern extends from a trigger point the upper trapezius muscle. This section works differently than the other sections of the trapezius and needs to be addressed specifically.
Sitting for long periods with your elbows elevated can shorten the muscle. Afterward, when the elbows are unsupported, this pattern will be irritated. This structure is more complicated as the serratus posterior, levator scapula, and other muscles get involved. This breathing exercise is an excellent countermeasure and leaves the entire head and neck more relaxed. If you have rounded shoulders and a tight chest, follow up with these doorway stretches.
Knock Out the Supporting Muscles
This muscle contributes to Forward-Head posture. It becomes short and strong. Once the head has become imbalanced over the trunk, this muscle is supported to become shorter and stronger.
This problem can perpetuate more than neck tension. It is known for referring irritation to the sympathetic ganglion. As a result, it is often associated with sensory integration dysfunction. Topical patches can offer short term relief, but those clients need to get longer-lasting relief. A coat can be a comforting form of deep pressure that helps with regulation to modulate sensory processing. That strategy doesn’t work when this trigger point is active.
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The upper trapezius lifts the collar bone and pulls the shoulder back when the head is back over the shoulders. 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 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…
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.
Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.
*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make it easier to read, more accessible, and
to include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there will be inconsistency in formatting, content, and readability until we get the old posts updated. Please excuse our mess.