I have always dealt with overly tight upper trapezius muscles. Perhaps it stems from my easily stressed personality, or the fact that I was raised in a cold environment (once they cancelled school not because it was snowing but simply because it was too cold). Overly active upper trapezius muscles are common in many people and can cause trigger points which are aggravated by subconsciously contracting the muscles due to psychological stressors, anxiety, cold and postural imbalance. However, the fact that I have been doing myofascial release and cupping religiously while working on my thoracic extension (which implements the lower and middle trapezius for postural stability) made me wonder why I was still feeling excessive pain in my upper trapezius.
Since completely eliminating a problem entails knowing WHY the problem occurs, I decided to be cognizant of my habitual movements to see where I could be placing excess stress on my upper traps. I realized putting my arm out the car window while driving placed stress on my upper traps. Putting my elbows on the table while eating put excess stress on my upper traps (while I am skeptical of the relative cultural paradigm from which “table manners” arises, I stopped putting my elbows on the table after this). I stopped shrugging the phone between my shoulder and ear while multitasking and instead use a bluetooth or speakerphone. I started carrying lighter purses since it puts uneven pressure on one upper trap. While all of these actions contribute to my upper trapezius pain, I was disregarding one huge culprit.
Like most women, I wear a bra for a majority of the time- especially when I’m out and about being active. Unlike most women who are unaware that they are wearing the wrong bra size (roughly 80%), I always knew I was wearing the wrong bra size. However, since I wasn’t able to find my bra size easily (or cheaply), I settled for wearing bras which had band sizes that were too big for me. When this happens, your bra straps constantly cut into your shoulders in attempts to support the weight of your breasts, which consequently tightens your upper trapezius muscles, which can lead to shoulder, neck and back pain over time. Theoretically, your band should provide 80% of the bust support while your straps should only be giving 20% of the support. Your shoulders and bra straps should never be the sole support of the weight of your bust. When wearing a bra that’s the right size, it should ideally support your bust without putting excess strain on your upper trapezius muscles. Although getting properly fitted for a bra and spending money to buy the right size seems like a chore, if you constantly wear a bra and are dealing with pain it will be a worthwhile investment.
Tackling my upper trapezius tightness makes me realize how postural problems and muscular pain often stem from multifaceted sources. While this might seem disheartening and frustrating when attempting to find the root of a problem to fix it, I like to think of it as putting pieces together to solve a mystery.
PS: Speaking of investments, one investment I’ve already made is using a theracane to dig into my tight upper trapezius to reverse the tension!