Neck pain due to upper trap “tightness” is a common condition we see at Health Space clinics. As a physio, I have seen many patients come in saying they have tight upper traps or feel like they hold their tension in their traps which makes
them feel tight. However, this may not actually be true.
For years healthcare practitioners have demonised the upper traps as being over active and causing that tight feeling, or overpowering the lower traps leading to imbalances. While this can sometimes be the case, for the majority it is actually upper trap weakness. If your healthcare practitioner has only given you upper trap stretches which hasn’t fixed the problem, the solution may be to actually be to strengthen the upper traps instead.
New research has found that the sensation of tightness can usually be attributed to lack of eccentric control in a given muscle. So, if our solution is to strengthen the upper trap it would be best to do so with a movement that gives you the highest upper trap activation possible.
EMG studies have shown that your standard shrug movement with arms resting by your side isn’t the most effective way to activate the upper traps. A better way to increase activation in the upper traps is to have your arms slightly abducted (out to the side) approximately 30 degrees from your trunk. This not only maximises activation in the upper traps but also increases middle trap, lower trap and serratus anterior muscle activation.
Our Physiotherapist Zab Azulay has made a demonstration video on his favorite shrug exercise variation which can be found on his instagram account @zab.physio. If you are constantly feeling like you are battling neck pain and tight traps get in contact with Zab Azulay at Health Space Clinics Kingsford on 9663 2151 or Potts Point on 8354 1534.