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March 7, 2023
Author: Shelby
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  • Star Exercise of the Week: Upper Trapezius Stretch

Did you know that shoulder pain and neck pain can be connected?

There are a lot of muscle connections between both of these areas. If one attachment point begins to misbehave and dysfunction, it can gradually start to affect the whole region.

The upper trapezius muscle is one of those culprits that can create shoulder and/or neck pain. 

This muscle originates from the following:

  • Base of the head
  • Inner 1/3 of the superior nuchal line
  • Ligamentum nuchae 
  • Spinous process of the 7th cervical vertebra

The muscle then inserts onto the outer 1/3 of the collar bone, or clavicle and the acromion process of the shoulder blade, or scapula.

The upper trapezius is responsible for the following actions:

  • Helps to elevate the shoulder blade 
  • Sidebending of the head towards the same side as the contracting muscle
  • Backward bending of the head when both sides of the upper trapezius contract at the same time 
  • Rotation of the head towards the opposite side of the contracting muscle

If we suspect that the upper trapezius is contributing to shoulder and/or neck pain, one of the initial ways of addressing this muscle is to gently stretch it.

This stretch is incredibly easy to do anywhere, anytime.

Step 1: Starting Position:

  • Position yourself in a tall, upright posture either in sitting or standing.

Step 2: Sidebending of the Head:

  • Bend the head directly to the side away from the side of the muscle you’re intending to stretch.
  • Make sure the nose remains pointed forward during this.
  • Don’t allow the head to rotate.

Step 3: Apply Gentle Overpressure:

  • Once the head is bent to the side, place the hand on the head to apply a gentle overpressure to your stretch.
  • You will use the hand on the same side your head is bent towards.
  • Hold the stretch anywhere from 30-60 seconds, then slowly return to your starting position.
  • Make sure the shoulders remain relaxed during the stretch.

Again, a very easy stretch to do!

The next time you’re experiencing neck and/or shoulder pain and suspect the upper trapezius could be a suspect, try out this stretch for quick relief!

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About the Author Shelby

Shelby Green is a Florida-licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), currently practicing at St. Anthony’s Resource Center Outpatient Rehabilitation in St. Petersburg, FL. Shelby received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of South Florida, followed by her DPT from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Shelby has 6 years clinical experience practicing in both the acute care and outpatient rehab settings. Specialties include orthopedics, with additional training in specific manual therapy techniques for pain management, as well as extensive training as a Certified Lymphedema Therapist.

Shelby is a Tampa, FL native, which is where she and her husband currently reside. Their favorite activities include spending time with family and anything outdoors, such as walking, bike riding, and going to the beach.

Medical Disclaimer

This website is intended to provide educational information only and should not be taken as medical advice. The information shared on this website is based on research, but is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. We recommend that you consult your healthcare provider for any specific questions or concerns you may have. The website does not accept responsibility for any harm that may occur from using the information given on this site. Speak to your medical provider about any health issues!

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