The upper traps. The most frustrating pain that people don’t always understand. With the amount of stress that people are experiencing nowadays, it’s no wonder that the upper traps are taking a beating.  There are so many ways of releasing them and alleviating some of the pain that you are experiencing and even the collateral pains that come along with it.

1. Your own hands

When you aren’t able to get to a massage therapist in the immediate future, stuck in traffic, lying in bed, where ever you are, the most immediate thing that you can do is use your hand to release the upper traps.

  • place your palm on the side of your neck
  • extend your thumb into the meaty part right between the neck and the shoulder
  • using your neck as an anchor, find a tender spot in that muscle, and once you have one, keep that anchor in and hold on to that spot as long as you can
  • keep working around that area as much as your thumb is able to tolerate

2.  The barbell/sledge hammer/mace bell

Most people’s thumb will get tired after trying to work on those upper traps a lot. Most people have access to a gym and these tools are amazing at releasing the upper traps.


When using the barbell, it’s a bit cumbersome and the weight may be a little too much for some people, but that weight will work well to release those upper traps

  • make sure the bar is just below your shoulder height
  • stand in the middle of the bar with your head on one side of the bar, depending on which side the pain is or which side you want to start with
  • position yourself right under the bar and lean into the bar towards the rack to give added leverage and stability

Sledge hammer/Macebell

The sledge hammer/macebells are much easier to control when attempting to release the upper traps. the  closer to the opposite end of the weighted side, the more pressure you’ll be able to apply to the upper traps.

  • place the sledge hammer or macebell on the upper trap that you want to work on and sit it on a tender spot
  • with the hand opposite to the side that you are working, move the sledge hammer or macebell around rolling it up and down the upper trap or front to back
  • you want to move slowly and dig into those tender spots

3. Midtraps are attached to the upper traps because… well they’re part of the same muscle

If you are have pain in your upper traps or tension headaches, one of the things that you can try as well is laying down on a lacrosse ball placed in the mid trap rhomboid area will help alleviate some of the tightness or tension that you may be having.

  • place the lacrosse ball right in between the spine and shoulder blade
  • if you’re having a little difficulty finding it, bring the arm of the side that you’re working on across your body to open the shoulder blade

4. The levator scapulae are really close to the upper traps and do similar things, but they’re still different muscles.

  • when working on the upper traps, moving whatever medium you’re working with slightly to the back will hit another muscle that can be tight and cause similar pains
  • honestly, it’s really hard to differentiate between the two, but this is included to remind you to work ALL that area out to cover any trigger points or tight fibers that might be there

Some of the keys to releasing tight muscles:

  • don’t fight it- foam rolling has the similar rules to stretching, if you’re contracting a muscle, you can’t release the tightness
  • tempo- when you’re releasing a muscle, the slower you go, the more work you’re able to get on it- if you go too fast, you may end up guarding and contracting the muscle more
  • it’s not going to be better immediately- consistency is always the key, the pain may be alleviated pretty quickly, but won’t go away permanently unless you make sure that you’re releasing the muscle completely

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