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Do you suffer from pain in your upper trapezius muscles, the ones that run across the tops of your shoulders to the sides of your neck? You’re not alone.

These are the muscles that everybody loves having rubbed, says Lorrie Maffey, a clinical musculoskeletal specialist based in Calgary with the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

But they’re also widely misunderstood, she says. People tend to mistakenly believe soreness in these muscles means they need to be stretched out. On the contrary, if you have a bit of a rounded posture, where your shoulders slouch forward and down slightly, your upper trapezius muscles are likely already stretched out too long.

The result? Trigger points, also known as muscle “knots.”

Rather than stretching them further, what you need to do is contract these muscles slightly by bringing the shoulder blades back and up a little bit, Maffey says.

To do this, pay attention to your clavicles, or collar bones. They should be parallel to the floor when you’re standing or sitting upright, she says. They shouldn’t be tipped forward, but neither should they be brought so far back that you’re in a stiff military posture, as though standing at attention.

Try the following when you’re sitting at your desk, she suggests: Tighten your abdomen muscles a little, and tuck your chin in just a bit, and try to position your collar bones so they are parallel to the floor. Now, imagine wearing your favourite uncle’s oversized suit jacket.

“Think of broadening your shoulders to make your shoulders fit this too-big of a suit jacket,” Maffey says. “So it’s not bringing your shoulders backward; it’s actually making yourself broader or wider in your shoulders.”

This simple exercise may bring you some immediate relief, and you’ll know you’re doing this right when you feel your serratus anterior muscles, the ones in your armpits at the sides of your ribs, puff out a little, Maffey says.

Who knew wearing an extra-large invisible jacket would make you look and feel so good?

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