How to Fix a Tight Neck
Traps (trapezius; upper back and upper shoulder)
Reasons to consider mobilization (foam roll, lacrosse ball, trigger point cane, etc.):
- Muscle soreness in traps from recent workout
- “Stiff neck” or “achy neck”
- Tense in the upper shoulders or upper back
- Uncomfortable slouched/forward-resting upper body posture
- Frequent mid-upper back muscle spasm (traps and/or rhomboids)
How to use a lacrosse ball to mobilize the traps:
- Let’s say that you want to roll your RIGHT trap.
- Find the meaty portion of your upper shoulder/back. These are the neck muscles above your shoulder blades that bulge when you shrug your shoulders, like when you are saying, “I don’t know.” These are your traps.
- Place yourself in a mini-squat against a wall, placing the lacrosse ball on the back side of your traps between you and the wall.
- Angle yourself so that you can apply pressure against the lacrosse ball. Search around for a tender spot by moving gently and slowly, only moving an inch or less at a time.
- In this position, you have a lot of control over intensity, so find the release that you can tolerate, and be sure to hold for about 10-15 seconds on tender spots!
- When you are holding a tender spot, you can try a few things to further intensify the mobilization. While maintaining pressure into the lacrosse ball:
- Relax your RIGHT shoulder down and then shrug it back up.
- Use your RIGHT arm to deliver a cross-punch across the front of your body like you are Mohammed Ali… except slower, gentler, and do not actually punch someone!
- Take your LEFT ear to your LEFT shoulder while keeping both of your shoulders in a relaxed/down position.
- After you are done foam rolling, take the opportunity to stretch your newly mobilized traps! To stretch your RIGHT trap, take your LEFT hand and grab the RIGHT side of your head, then pull your LEFT ear down to your LEFT shoulder. Keep both shoulders relaxed in a down position. You can get a deeper stretch by sitting down and gripping the bottom or side of the seat with your RIGHT hand, then trying the same stretch, OR, you can stand and use your LEFT hand to grab your RIGHT wrist and pull downward while moving your LEFT ear down to your LEFT shoulder.
- In general, mobilizing tissue using a foam roller, lacrosse ball, trigger point cane, or another instrument will cause some discomfort; after all, the goal is to mobilize (move or “free-up”) the tissue from any restrictions that might be limiting your body’s movement or range of motion. However, if you experience too much discomfort or pain, you should stop.
- In general, you should not attempt to mobilize (foam roll, lacrosse ball, trigger point cane, etc.) a recent injury that has occurred within the past 48 hours.
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by Nick April, coach at Bent On Better