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Stretch the Trapezius

By Christy Cael

The trapezius is a large, powerful muscle that covers a kite-shaped area, extending from the base of the skull downward over the upper spine and laterally to the clavicle and scapula. The trapezius can be divided into three distinct sections: upper,middle, and lower.

The lower fibers are often weak and underutilized and the upper fibers are often tight and overutilized for lifting, carrying, and pulling, as well as maintaining a forward-head posture. This contributes to what massage therapists commonly see in their clients: elevated shoulders. Additionally, prolonged “kyphotic”posturing, such as occurs with driving and computer work, may lead to further problems. Lengthening of these shortened muscles is essential to relieving pain. Here’s how:


1. Begin seated or standing. 2. Inhale as you lift your head

up, reaching the crown of

your head toward the sky. 3. Exhale and tip your head

toward your shoulder. 4. Rest your hand on your head, staying relaxed as

you gently pull your head toward your shoulder to increase the stretch.

5. Return to center and repeat on other side.

Christy Cael is a licensed massage therapist and certi ed strength and conditioning specialist. She is the author of Functional Anatomy: Musculoskeletal Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Palpation for Manual Therapists (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009).

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