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TRAPEZIUS MUSCLE: ANATOMY, PALPATION AND MYOFASCIAL RELEASE
Trapezius muscle is very tight in most people. Before learning to release tightness in trapezius, first we need to learn to find the muscle. This short tutorial consists of three parts:
— Learning Bony Landmarks Required to Find Trapezius Muscle
— Palpation Instructions on Finding the Muscle
— Myofascial Release Techniques for Trapezius
Place your right hand fingertips exactly in the center of your chest between your nipples. This is your sternum (see pic.1 ). Slowly move your fingertips up. At some point you will feel that the bone suddenly disappears from under your fingertips – this is suprasternal notch. Move your fingertips to the left and you will feel your clavicle. Rotate your shoulder and you will notice your clavicle moving under your fingertips.
Place your right hand on top of your left shoulder – right where you would usually get a shoulder rub. Your fingertips should now be very close to spine of scapula (see pic.2). Move your shoulder up and down and you will notice spine of the scapula pressing into your fingertips. To find medial border of the scapula, place left hand behind lower back and gently press into lower back. This will expose inner border of scapula and make it easy to find.
Place your right hand behind your head and press in gently feeling the bone in the back of your skull. This is your occipital bone. Slowly move around and try to find a bump in the middle – this is external occipital protuberance. Slowly move down away from the external occipital protuberance and you will notice that at some point your hand jumps off the bone and rests on neck vertebrae. The part of the vertebrae you can feel are called spinous process.
It is not hugely important to remember all the anatomical names used above – it is much more important to find all the bony landmarks we just discussed and make sure that you explore them by gently pressing with your fingertips.
PALPATION OF LOWER, MIDDLE AND UPPER TRAPEZIUS
Lower trapezius (see pic.3) contracts when you lift same side hand above your head. Since it is challenging for most people to place a hand behind back to feel lower trapezius, you can take a ball (for example, ball form soma system myofascial 5pack or lacrosse/tennis ball), place it behind your back and lean-in against a wall. Once the ball is behind your back in the area of lower trapezius – slowly lift your hand up. You should feel lower trapezius contracting. If you can not feel it – try to shift the ball slightly and repeat.
Middle trapezius contracts when you move your shoulder blade towards your spine. It might be challenging to isolate middle trapezius, since both lower and upper trapezius tend to also engage when you retract shoulder blade (i.e. move shoulder blade closer to the spine). One trick that may help to isolate upper trapezius is to bring your hand behind, thus hyperextending your hand. This relaxes upper and lower trapezius. Now, move your shoulder blade closer to your spine – this should engage middle trapezius while keeping lower and upper trapezius relaxed. Note that this movement will also engage rhomboid which lies deeper to the middle trapezius.
Similar to lower trapezius, upper trapezius contracts as you lift your hand above your head. Place your left hand on right shoulder rub region (see pic.4) and slowly start lifting your right hand. Since upper trapezius also hyperextends your head, you can press your hand against the wall to make upper trapezius contraction stronger.
TRAPEZIUS MUSCLE: MYOFASCIAL RELEASE
Superficial self bodywork
- Lie down on yoga mat, facing up. Place soma system double tracker right under external occipital protuberance. Breathe and explore sensations.
- Shift double tracker into mid-neck and repeat.
- Add second double tracker and work on upper back in the same manner.
- Add soma system foam support under hips and try to do short range roll.
- Take two soma system double trackers and place them in V pattern; place foam roller under hip. Lift hips higher for greater compression – see video for details.
Focused Self Bodywork
- Place soma system Big Orange under the occiput and rest your head on top of it. Breathe.
- Remove soma system Big Orange and place smaller ball from the myofascial 5pack under lower trapezius. Explore upper back one spot at a time: lift the hips and inhale, stay for several seconds, exhale and release hips on foam support or the floor; shift the ball to new spot and repeat.