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The upper trapezius stretch, also known as the head tilt stretch, is a stretching workout that helps ease shoulder, neck and upper back pain. It’s a beginner-level exercise that can be easily done at home with absolutely no equipment.

The upper trapezius is a major part of your shoulder girdle and is responsible for stabilizing your arms, extending your neck and rotating and moving your shoulder blades. It’s also a very common contributor to shoulder and neck pain. Stiffness and weakening of the upper trapezius muscles are common in office goers due to their long sitting hours.

Regular stretching of the trapezius can help reduce muscle spasms and tightness and promote flexibility and mobility.

How to do upper trapezius stretch? Correct shape and technique

Step-by-step instructions:

  • Begin standing or seated for this stretch. Keep a neutral spine position, and tighten your core during the exercise.
  • Place your left hand on your lower back, and keep your elbow bend. Place your right hand on top of your head.
  • Start applying pressure on your head with your right hand, and gently pull your head towards your shoulder.
  • As you do that, you’ll feel a stretch from your head and neck across your upper trapezius muscles.
  • Hold the stretch for a few seconds, and relax.
  • Repeat the move on the other side.
  • To promote relaxation and correct technique, make sure you breathe deeply during the entire stretch.

Watch this video for reference:

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Tips to consider

When doing the upper trapezius stretch, keep in mind the following tips:

  • If the stretch is too much on your shoulders and neck, simply modify it by reducing the intensity.
  • Always start with a gentle stretch, and gradually increase the intensity as you become more comfortable.
  • Another way to ease the stretch is to keep your non-working arm on your side at all times instead of keeping it on your back. Doing that will allow you to stretch more deeply without any discomfort.

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Common mistakes to avoid

Although the trapezius stretch looks easy, people make mistakes while doing it. So, be very mindful and avoid these common errors:

Bend your back

Bending your back indicates that you lack the adequate range of motion required to perform the upper trapezius stretch. As a result, your body manages that by bending over in an attempt to get the right posture. To avoid that, reduce the intensity, and keep the movement slow and easy.

Overstretching the muscles

Minor overstretching is fine as long as your muscles don’t start to hurt. However. overstretching might lead to sharp pain, and in some cases, it might get severe. It’s particularly important to avoid overstretching during shoulder and neck stretches, as a strained muscle or ligament can be very painful and problematic.

Benefits of doing upper trapezius stretch

Practicing the trapezius stretch offers several benefits, including:

Eases tension in the neck and shoulder

The major benefit of the upper trapezius stretch is that it potentially reduces pain and tightness in the shoulders and neck. Tension in the neck primarily occurs due to poor posture that results from a sedentary lifestyle or hours sitting in front of a computer or TV.

Loosens the spine

If you have a long sitting job, there’s a chance your spine, especially the middle and upper spine, is not flexible and has reduced range of motion. The trapezius stretch can help your spine regain its mobility and flexibility.

Promotes better posture

The benefits stated above, ie, reduced neck and shoulder pain and spinal flexibility, all contribute to an improved posture. However, it’s equally important that you do the stretch in the correct way, and be consistent with your fitness routine.

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The upper trapezius stretch can be done while standing, but if you are not comfortable, you can sit and perform the stretch.

Don’t worry – you’ll still attain the same benefits and great stretches for your neck and shoulders. When stretching, it’s normal to experience a little discomfort, but there should be no pain.

If you feel any pain in your neck, reduce the intensity, or stop the exercise altogether. Relax for a while before continuing. If the pain persists, seek medical attention immediately.


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