neck and muscle pain

How to relax the trapezius? Complete Guide (Tips and Exercises)

You have pain in the neck and / or upper back without? It is probable that they are due to a tension in your trapezius muscles.

Indeed, trapezoids, broad muscles located at the level of the thoracic belt, are frequently the seat of tensions and contractures. These then give pain who can feel between the shoulder blades, region between shoulder and neck, neck and base of the skull.

In this article, after a brief presentation of muscles, we offer a whole range of effective methods for loosen trapezius to get rid of pain!

Trapezius muscles: presentation and anatomy

The trapezoids are broad skeletal muscles who belong to the belt thoracic. They cover the posterior surfaces of the of and neck as well as the upper back on either side of the spine (area between the two shoulder blades).

trapezius muscle

Each of the trapezius muscles consists of 3 beams:

  • Superior: fits over the collarbone;
  • Medium : inserts on the scapula (shoulder blade);
  • Inferior : inserts on the scapula.

The main action of the trapezius muscles is to raise the starsshoulders (shoulder raise), but they also come into play in movements such as:

  • The rotation, inclination and extension of the head.
  • Bringing the shoulders closer to the spine (by the action of the middle beam).
  • The lowering of the shoulders (by the action of the lower bundle).

In addition, trapezoids are shoulder stabilizing muscles. They are therefore involved in the majority of the movements of the latter and the protect against injury.

Regarding innervation, this is ensured by two nerves: the "nerve accessory " (also called “spinal nerve”, 12nd pair of cranial nerves) for the upper beam, the “trapezius nerve” for the other two beams (middle and lower).

Conditions where the traps are tense

The trapezius muscles, like many muscles, can be the seat of conditions such as:

Shoulder pain of cervical origin 1 e1396358009816 How to relax the trapezius
  • Turnkey cramps which correspond to involuntary, temporary and often painful muscular contractions. They are favored in particular by physical exercise, dehydration and lack of minerals such as magnesium.
  • Turnkey contractures which are defined as involuntary, painful muscle contractions and, unlike cramps, they are permanent.
  • A elongation: lesions or micro tears caused by overstretching of the muscle fibres.
  • Un breakdown: it is a partial rupture of the muscle fibers (small tear).
  • A tear: also called "rupture", because it is characterized by a total rupture of a muscle.
  • A tendonitis: corresponds to inflammation or irritation of one or more tendons.

Apart from the cramps and contractures, which correspond to voltages primitive muscle, all the other conditions mentioned (elongation, tendinitis, strain, etc.) can lead to secondary muscle tension in the trapezius.

The secondary muscle tension, also referred to as "reflexes" or "reactive", are involuntary muscle contractions in response to pain caused by an anatomical injury.

It's kind of defense mechanism against the triggering of pain and against the aggravation of tissue damage.

But these reflex muscular tensions can also be painful et persist even after the anatomical lesions that initially triggered them have healed ! What was therefore a defense mechanism becomes a problem that will have to be eliminated...

Furthermore, it should be known that the muscle tension, whether primitive or reflex, are favored by the stress, anxiety and bad postures.

How to relax the trapezius?

To relax the trapezius, nothing better than stretching! so here's three great exercises to effectively stretch those muscles which are often the seat of painful tensions:

First exercise

First, put yourself in standing position, your straight back and your shoulders back.

Then place your hands behind back and, with your left hand, hold your right wrist.

Then, tilt your head to the left while pulling your right hand (which you hold with your left hand) to the left.

Trapezius stretch How to relax the trapezius

To stretch as many muscle fibers as possible of your right trapezius, play on movements of rotation, flexion and inclination of your head while feeling your fibers stretch at the level of the neck, Both of you and the right shoulder. Hold the stretch for at least 45 seconds for best efficiency.

Finally, repeat the same steps for the left trapezius!

Second exercise

Start by putting yourself in standing position ou seated and place your hands behind head by interlacing your fingers.

Then, place your left hand on the top of your head at its right side.

Then pull delicately et gradually your head with your left hand while lowering your right shoulder (drop your right shoulder to the floor!).

Here too, for stretch as many muscle fibers as possible of your right trapezius, perform different movements (rotation, inclination, flexion, etc.). You should feel your fibers stretch from of up to the shoulder.

Finally, follow the same steps to stretch your left trapezius!

Third exercise

For this exercise, stand standing position ou seated and place your hands at neck level (fingers intertwined) just above the vertebrae cervical

Once in the right position, while keeping the straight back, tuck your chin into your throat as much as possible and gently pull your head down using your hands.

You should feel the stretch in the Both of you (lower trapezius bundles) and neck (upper beams).

While having your head bent, play with the rotation and tilting movements of your head to stretch the maximum number of muscle fibers.

Important Notes:

  • For all three exercises, try to hold the stretch at least 45 seconds to effectively relax your traps.
  • All movements must be fluid, progressive et made with the utmost care (never sudden movements or jolts).
  • Also know that these exercises are absolutely not supposed to be painful! Stop at the slightest pain to avoid any risk of injury.
  • If you have a tensions excessively intense or painful muscles, especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms (numbness, radiation to the upper limb, etc.), do not hesitate to see a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.

Alternative techniques to relax the trapezius muscles

In addition to stretching, there are many methods Which make it possible to effectively relax the trapezius muscles. Here are a few :


To effectively relax your trapezius muscles, nothing better than a self-massage ! Several techniques are possible:

Technique "mother cat" to massage the neck:

  1. Flex your head (tilt it forward).
  2. Grab your neck with one hand without using your thumb (like the mother cat who grabs her kitten by the skin of the neck with her mouth…).
  3. Squeeze your hand, as if to grab you by the scruff of the neck, while bringing your head back.
  4. Release your hand while flexing your head again (bringing it forward).
  5. Repeat these steps several times to thoroughly massage the vertical parts of the upper beams of your trapezius muscles.

“Sponge” technique to massage the upper trapezius bundles:

  1. Grasp your left trapezius, located between the shoulder and the neck, using the right hand (without using the thumb: grab the muscle between the palm of the hand and the last 4 fingers).
  2. Squeeze your hand while doing a left shoulder raise (to train a trapezius contraction).
  3. Release your hand while bringing your shoulder back to neutral.
  4. Repeat the operation several times.
  5. Switch to the right side following the same steps.

When performing this massage, imagine your trapeze like a sponge that you wring while raising the shoulder et who gorges himself with water by lowering his shoulder. This visualization will help you concentrate and make the massage more efficient!

Technique with a tennis ball to massage the middle and lower bundles of the trapezius muscles:

The middle and lower beams of trapezius muscles, being located in the top of the back, are not not accessible to self-massage. This is why tennis balls were invented… So get yourself two and follow these few steps for the ultimate massage of your traps:

  1. Put the two tennis balls inside a sock (to prevent them from escaping during the massage).
  2. Lie on the balls so that they press against your upper back, just above your shoulder blades.
  3. Put your hands at the level of the neck by interlacing your fingers and raise your head.
  4. Pressing down on your feet (legs bent), raise your buttocks off the ground then roll the balls up and down to massage the entire dorsal part of your trapezius muscles (medium and lower beams) for 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. You can take the opportunity to massage your paravertebral muscles et lumbar, this is crazy good!


Acupuncture is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine which, by stimulating specific points of the body, restores a good circulation of vital energy in the body, which offers multiple therapeutic effects according to practitioners.


Many people praise the benefits of acupuncture for relax muscles et relieve pain. However, since its fundamental principles are not scientifically proven, it must retain a complementary nature.


Le cupping, also called "technology of suction cups » ou "Hijama", is a traditional practice from Egyptian and Chinese cultures that is based on the suction (using glass, silicone, ceramic or bamboo cupping) to bring about therapeutic effects.

michael phelps suckers

This practice is used by many very high level athletes, in particular the American swimmer Michael Phelps and the Madrid football star Karim Benzema. According to them, cupping speeds recovery after periods of intense training by promoting muscle relaxation, en reducing pain et eliminating toxins from the body.

You can try cupping to relax your traps, but only in qualified professionals (never black) to avoid any risk of infection or burns.


Strengthen its trapezius muscles helps reduce the tensions and pain ! To do this, you can perform simple exercises at home that consist of raising your shoulders against resistance.

Here is an example exercise for strengthen your traps:

  1. Take any bag and fill it with heavy objects until you get the weight that suits you (5, 10 or 15 kg or even more depending on your abilities).
  2. Get into a standing position keeping your spine well aligned.
  3. Hold the bag with both hands, arms straight and close to the body.
  4. Shrug your shoulders while keeping your arms straight and close to your body.
  5. Hold the contraction for about 2 seconds then let your shoulders drop.
  6. Repeat this movement a dozen times per set (perform 3 or 4 sets).

So, with this simple exercise, you should feel your trapezius muscles strengthen over the days and the tensions gradually disappear.

Applying heat

To relax your trapezius muscles, apply a hot water bottle filled with hot water for a few minutes. The heat promotes the relaxation muscular et improves blood circulation.

cervical heat for arnold's neuralgia

You can also apply a warming cream on your traps to help them relax.


If you have a persistent pain secondary to a contracture of the trapezius muscles resistant to the methods mentioned above (heat, massage, stretching, etc.), it is possible to resort to a muscle relaxant medication (muscle relaxant).

drugs for intercostal neuralgia

obviously, self-medication is to be avoided! Any medication taken should be framed by a doctor ou pharmacist.


[1] Trapezius muscle, (February 29, 2012). Consulted on: November 20, 2022. [Online Video]. Available on :

[2] “Trapezius muscle – Anatomy, Pathologies and Treatments”,, July 27, 2016. (accessed November 18, 2022).

[3] “Pain Maintenance Mechanisms | Learn about pain, All allies against pain. (accessed November 18, 2022).

[4] SH Lyon Web Agency Ruby On Rails, “Trapeze pain: understanding and relieving your neck pain”. (accessed November 22, 2022).

[5] “Trapeze stretching”, osteorleans. (accessed November 21, 2022).

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