Who is feeling stressed right now? [Everyone raises their hands.] It has been a challenging time for many, to say the least. One of the stretches I recommend may help release some of the tension, and that’s the upper trapezius stretch.  

WHAT does it do? The upper trapezius is a postural muscle which shrugs the shoulder, steady the shoulders, and tilts and assists in turning the head.   

WHY should I stretch it? The upper trapezius is what I’ve nicknamed the “Minnesota Muscle” in the winter because many people are shrugging their shoulders to keep their neck warm, or from increased tension of driving or cold weather. The shoulder shrug movement is often a stress response in many people. The muscle can become very tense causing increased tightness or pain in the upper back and neck. If the muscle becomes too tight, it can also decrease the neck range of motion when tipping the head to the side. This muscles often has increased tightness or soreness when a shoulder injury occurs as well.  

HOW do I stretch it? Here is how I teach this stretch:  

Place one hand on top of head, and gently pull ear to the shoulder. No pain or tingling into the arms/hands should occur while performing the stretch. Hold for 10-15 seconds.  

Repeat 3 times each side, 1-3x per day.   

If the stretch causes any pain or tingling, decrease stretching tension until it is only a pull. If pain persists, stop the stretch.  

Since this muscle is often involved as a stress response, another way to help decrease tension in this area is to do “shoulder checks” throughout the day. Basically, take a deep breath in and breath out. When you breath out try to drop the shoulders down, causing them to relax.   

You can also use a theracane to perform trigger point therapy on this muscle. A theracane is a handheld self messager cane, which is used to apply pressure to and sooth sore muscles.   

​Try implementing this stretch into your daily routine. Is it helping your neck tension? I’d love to hear your feedback! Comment below or send me an email.