For those who don’t know me, I am an artist as well as a massage therapist, and whenever I write something about a particular muscle – like the trapezius – I look for clip art of that muscle and think to myself, “I really should just make my own muscle illustrations.”
Well, I recently got a fancy digital stylus that makes it possible to use my iPad like a sketchpad. It didn’t take me long to realize that making muscle illustrations would be a fun use of this particular technology.
Now, to get to the point… this knotty little muscle, the trapezius, also know as “the traps”. Named for it’s trapezoid shape, it covers a large portion of your back and shoulders and is the muscle you can pretty easily feel right below the surface of the skin at your upper shoulders.
This is one of the main muscles that is likely bothering you when you say your neck or shoulders ache. Because of the wide region of the body it covers, it is responsible for, or at least involved in, a lot of actions of the neck, back and shoulders. This includes shrugging your shoulders, moving your arm and shoulders backwards, and tilting your head back.
Pain in the trapezius can result from injuries such as whiplash, carrying heavy objects, neck and shoulder tension, or poor posture. I feel like the most common source of upper trapezius pain I see is due to the tendency to scrunch our shoulders up towards our ears when we’re stressed. When we do this, those muscles contract to hold that position. After being contracted like that for a long time, the muscles tighten and can get stuck that way, tear, or develop those sticky spots we call “knots”.
If your traps prove to be a problem area for you, we’ll spend time working on them during your massage. We’ll work to soften, relax and lengthen them again. The trapezius has three different sections, upper, middle and lower fibers. Each section has different functions and different ways we can work on them during massage.
For the upper portion of the muscles, I’ll use a mix of massage strokes, deep pressure/compression, movement, and gentle positional release techniques. Stretching and range of motion of the arms and shoulders meant can help get them loosened up and moving again. The middle and lower portions of the trapezius are worked with massage strokes and different stretches and movements down your back, alongside your spine, and across the shoulder blades.
If you’ve got pain or tension in these areas, I can help! We can work on the trapezius and other shoulder muscles both on the massage table and in the massage chair. Even a short session can help. Contact me to schedule your appointment, and we’ll get that knotty muscles back into shape!