4 Ways to Loosen Tight Trapezius Muscles

A man stretching.

Tight traps—almost everyone has them, and everyone knows how they feel.

It feels like you're constantly having a weight on your shoulder. You feel tightness in your upper back, arms and neck. Sometimes, headaches develop from the tight muscles in your neck.

Tightness of the trapezius muscles affect many people in various situations. Maybe you've just started working out regularly. Maybe you have been doing too many overhead activities such as swimming or playing tennis. You might have carried heavy objects or been sitting in one position for a long period of time. Maybe you're just stressed.

Your trapezius muscle consists of three parts and has many different function—lifting your shoulders, holding up your neck and head, and moving your shoulder blade. When this muscle is tight, it affects your entire body, as your biomechanics will change.

Tight traps are bound to happen. They're rarely serious enough to require medical attention, but they're significant enough to influence your training and overall well-being.

Use these guidelines to deal with these tight muscles on your own.

1. Check for Tightness Throughout the Day

Whether you're sitting at your desk or out for a run, periodically check where your shoulders are. Are they relaxed or are your traps contracted? Are you shrugging your shoulders?

In the ideal state, your shoulders should be in line with your collarbone; not higher or pushed forward. You can easily check this by simply letting your shoulders "fall." You may realize you have them in a shrugged position too often.

2. Do Shoulder Shrugs

To prevent your traps from tightening, and to release tension from the traps, do shoulder shrugs regularly throughout the day.

Exaggerate the movement by pulling your shoulders all the way to your ears, holding them there for a few seconds, and then letting them fall to a relaxed position. You can also loosen your traps by rolling your shoulders in both directions.

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