Apr 25, 2022
Pain & Injury

How to Get a Trapezius Knot Release

How to Get a Trapezius Knot Release

Productivity is important, but it can be harder than it needs to be when you’re experiencing sore, stiff neck, shoulder, and back muscles. If you are like many of us who are sitting at a desk for 8+ hours per day, you may experience tight, achy knots in your upper trapezius muscles that can interfere with your life and make it more difficult to stay focused and do the things you need to do.

We’ll help you better understand what causes muscle knots in your upper traps and share some strategies for successfully getting a trapezius knot release at home!

illustration of upper traps trigger points

Why Do I Have Muscle Knots in My Traps?

The average day can put a surprising amount of stress on your upper trap muscles, especially if you work in an office in front of a computer. A lot of this has to do with the effects of sitting in poor posture and a lack of movement. Many people:

  • Constantly lean in with forward head posture to see their computer screen
  • Spend hours each day looking down at their phones and other devices
  • Don’t have the most ergonomic setup at their desk
  • Are inactive for longer periods of time

Each of these are physical factors that are among the most common reasons for neck pain. Tension and tightness may also develop in the upper trapezius as a result of psychological stress factors, too.

When experiencing stress consistently over a longer period of time, the body’s natural reaction is to tighten up. This creates the perfect environment for your upper traps to develop areas of the muscle that remain at least partially contracted, something more commonly referred to as a muscle knot or trigger point.

Common Ways to Relieve Tight Upper Traps

While there are many different ways to relieve tightness in the upper traps, some options may work better than others for helping your muscles to finally relax and stay relaxed for a longer period of time. Hopefully you’ll learn about something new to try and see how it works for you.

Stretches for the neck and upper traps

Performing stretches for your neck and upper traps is one of the fastest and easiest ways to get some relief from that tight feeling in your muscles. Stretching can be done whether you’re at your desk or on the go.

All you need to do is gently bend your head and neck towards the side to feel a stretch. Explore different angles that you bend your neck or rotate your head until you find a stretch that is targeting the right spot.

While stretching may feel good while you’re doing it, it does not get a tense muscle to “release” fully for a long-term effect. Think of it as a shorter-term solution that helps until that tight feeling comes back. Knots in your upper trapezius cannot be stretched away.

Self massage for the upper traps

Similar to stretching, massaging your upper trap muscles can provide some nice relief when you need it. You can massage your muscles on your own using something like a lacrosse ball or massage gun, or have it done professionally by a massage therapist.

Massaging muscles typically involves using broader, rhythmic strokes along the length of a muscle, where the goal of this is to increase circulation and more range of motion into an area to provide some relief. While self massage may be more effective than simple stretches, rubbing on a muscle knot also does not fully release it.

Apply prolonged pressure to release a trapezius knot

While stretching and massaging or rubbing your upper trap muscles can provide some relief, holding the affected area for an extended period of time tends to be much more effective in “releasing” a muscle.

This technique involves the application of direct, consistent pressure on the affected area for at least 90 seconds. At first, the pressure felt on the knotted section of muscle may be intense. After about 30 seconds, these feelings should reduce and the muscle will continue to soften, indicating that the tension is finally releasing.

You may search along the length of the upper traps for other tighter spots, looking for more areas to apply pressure. Once the muscle is released, then you may find that you have an easier time stretching and moving your head and neck through a fuller range of motion, where you’ll get a better result compared to when you only stretched it.

The Best Way to Release the Upper Trapezius

As we just discussed, the most effective way to get a trapezius knot release is by applying direct and prolonged pressure to the trigger point for 90 seconds or more. With this approach, you have a better opportunity for creating change in the pattern that the brain is choosing to hold tension in the muscle.

As you maintain the consistent pressure and take deep breaths, you help communicate to your brain that you feel safe, there is no threat, and there is no need to tense up the muscle to protect against anything. The muscle then softens, is able to receive more blood flow, and has a better opportunity to heal more quickly.

Using the Nuckle to get a trapezius knot release at home

If you are searching for an at-home method for getting rid of tight, sore upper trap muscles at home that actually works, look no further than the Nuckle.

Created by a physical therapist who has treated and resolved this issue in many patients, this innovative tool replicates the amount of pressure and angles needed to get into those muscles for an effective release. The tips of the Nuckle allow you to target the smaller, knotted sections of your muscles with precision, making it much more effective compared to other larger or rounder tools.

woman using Nuckle tool to release tight upper trap muscles

Keep your upper traps relaxed, improve your posture, and move more

Consider using the Nuckle as part of your weekly routine to help you continue to make progress in releasing tension in your upper traps, especially if you are someone who sits down a lot and works on a computer.

The Nuckle can also be used to release tension in your neck at the base of your skull and also around your chest and shoulders. Releasing all of these areas can help you use the proper muscles to improve your posture and reduce the stress that builds up in your upper traps.

Ensuring that all 3 of these muscles remain happy and free of tension will keep your Secondary Core functioning at its best. To make it easy for you, here's a simple 3-step sequence we recommend you follow:

  1. Release the suboccipital muscles at the base of your skull.
  2. Release the pec minor muscles in your chest.
  3. Release the upper trap muscles between your neck and shoulders.

Spend at least 90-120 seconds on each muscle and feel free to explore a couple of different tighter spots within the same muscle.

Lastly, get up and move your body more. Even when sitting at your desk in “perfect posture” for 8+ hours, your muscles can still become tight. Your upper traps are constantly working to stabilize your head, neck, and shoulders as you have your arms out in front of you.

Take some breaks throughout the work day to move your body and get some motion into your head, neck, and shoulders. This should help reduce the frequency that you experience knots and pain in your upper traps.

Secondary Core

This blog post is part of the Secondary Core education where we teach you how to release tension in the muscles around the head, neck, chest, and shoulders. To learn more about our upcoming courses and certification programs, please reach out to us at hello@alethasupport.com for more information.