WHAT ARE TRAPEZIUS MUSCLES?
You might be wondering what exactly your ‘trapezius’ is — or maybe not, since you’ve managed to find your way here.
Most people have a vague idea that it’s part of their shoulder – an upper back region that’s usually super stiff and needs loosening. But they aren’t particularly clear what it does.
Your traps, as they’re fondly referred to, are responsible for moving and rotating your shoulder blade, stabilizing your arm, and extending your neck.
Basically, it does a lot of work, making it an easy place for stress and tension to accumulate. This is especially true of the upper part of the trapezius that joins into the neck. To add to that, the pandemic hasn’t been too kind to our collective traps’.
HOW DO THEY BECOME TIGHT AND TENSE?
WFH has proved to be quite a pain in the neck, literally. Long hours of working on the laptop sitting in odd positions, in even odder settings…longer hours hunched over the smartphone scrolling frantically, it takes a toll. The forward hunch, as we popularly liked to call it, is quite terrifying for your trap muscles. They’re triangular long muscles that start towards the end of the neck and go all the way down your spine. So when you round your back and hunch forward for long hours, you’re basically stretching them over your spine in an unnatural position causing them to tense up and stiffen.
We’ve in fact been seeing a huge number of patients coming in the past few months with similar complaints – pain in the neck and the upper back.
The long-term solution to this is of course strengthening and stabilizing the muscles, but also ensuring that your work environment is optimum. An external keyboard, a screen that’s more at eye level, even an ergonomic chair that gives proper lumbar support – all these play a key role in keeping the traps healthy.
STRETCHES TO LOOSEN TIGHT TRAPEZIUS MUSCLES
Here are a few stretches to help relieve that stress in your traps and get the blood flowing all through them.
1. The Cat Stretch:
- Get into position on all fours on the floor.
- Inhale and curl the spine up toward the ceiling while contracting the abdominal muscles.
- Hold the position for 15 seconds.
- Exhale and allow the belly to sink toward the floor, arching the back.
- The Ear To Shoulder Stretch
- Sit up straight in a chair.
- Slowly bend the head over to the left side as though trying to touch the ear to the shoulder.
- Place the left hand on the head and gently pull it down toward the shoulder for a deeper stretch.
- Hold the stretch for 20 seconds.
- Release the head and perform the same stretch on the right side.
- The Hug Stretch.
- Stand up straight.
- Reach the right arm across the chest and hold the left shoulder. Do the opposite on the other side to hold the right shoulder with the left hand.
- Press down on the left shoulder with the right hand while leaning the head to the right.
- Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
These should definitely help, but if they don’t then you’d best get in touch with us on the phyt.health app or your nearest physio. Various other techniques like kinesio taping, needling, deep tissue massages have also been shown to be very effective for cases with long build-up periods and extremely stiff traps.
Oh, and straighten that back!