How to get the knots out of your trapezius

Written by suzanne schuetter
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How to get the knots out of your trapezius
Muscle knots in the trapezius can cause neck and shoulder pain. (Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Neck and shoulder pain is often caused by tension in the trapezius, a triangular muscle attached to the base of the neck that stretches along the shoulders to the middle back. The trapezius is the muscle that controls the shoulders and helps to rotate the head and neck. When the body is under stress, that stress is often carried in the upper trapezius, causing painful muscle knots.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Pillow
  • Tennis ball
  • Foam exercise roller

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Lay down on your side with your head supported on a pillow so that it is in a straight line with the rest of your spine. Massage the upper trapezius muscles using your bottom hand. Press down or knead the muscle knots with pressure that is comfortable for you, along the top of your shoulder from neck to arm and down between your shoulder blades toward your spine.

  2. 2

    Lay on your back on a firm surface such as the floor. Place a tennis ball or racquetball beneath your trapezius muscle. Move your body until you hit the trigger point or tender spot and then rest your body with the tennis ball on the tender spot until it starts to relax. You can also make smaller movements so that the tennis ball kneads the knot in a back and forth or circular motion. If lying on the floor is too uncomfortable or provides too much pressure on the muscle knots, you can place ball between your shoulder and a wall or doorframe and massage it that way. This takes gravity out of the equation and allows you more control over the pressure you apply to the knot.

  3. 3

    Lay on a firm surface with a foam exercise roller underneath your upper back. Apply pressure to the knot in your trapezius in the same way you would with a tennis ball. Breathe deeply as you roll over trigger points where your trapezius is more tender. You can shorten the distance of your roll, concentrating on the muscle knot until you start to feel less pain at that point.

  4. 4

    Visit a licensed massage therapist and ask him to focus on the neck, shoulder and upper back muscles. Licensed masseurs are trained to recognise and relieve muscle knots.

Tips and warnings

  • To prevent knots in your trapezius, stretch often. Avoid holding a phone between your ear and your shoulder and practice good posture, with your ears, shoulders and hips in a straight vertical line to the ground.
  • Breathe deeply while working the knots out of your trapezius to prevent adding more tension to the area. Do not apply so much pressure that it causes extreme pain.

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