In our tech-ready, chair-heavy modern world, the neck and upper back are a tension dumping ground for the majority of people. However, one of the most common areas of complaint lives directly under the swagging outline of the upper trapezius. Here, a convergence of many deep shoulder-to-head and neck-to-trunk musculature traverse, namely the: levator scapula, middle and posterior scalenes, and the supraspinatus.
Treating this trapezius trigger point epicenter on one’s own body is compounded by the fact that to apply the most effective vertical pressure to it, one must push top-down into the shoulder. Even most thumbs (both trained and untrained), tire quickly when scrubbing along this supraspinous gutter that runs from neck’s bottom to the head of the humerus. These approaches are generally awkward for the giver but even more importantly, the source of pain tends to continually escape into hiding along the many folds of various muscular fiber directions exposed here.
Here is a way to finally treat yourself without having to exhaust yourself. This Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball solution I call Block Dock, allows you to get the most beneficial angle of approach while laying down in a relaxed position and using your feet to push instead of your thumbs. Enjoy powering down your shoulders and unplugging neck tension at this Yoga Tune Up® docking station!
Discover solutions for shoulder pain
This looks like an excellent opportunity to reach upper trapezius! I look forward to trying it. And I agree with what Suzanne said below; does seem like an excellent alternative to rolling from bridge. Thank you!
thank you! can’t wait to try this tomorrow. a good option for those who feel too much sensation from rolling the supraspinatus from a bridge pose
THANK YOU! I’ve been wrestling with how to get the upper trap tender point/trigger band without awkwardly contorting myself for the last year. 1000 thanks for this fabulous suggestion.
This looks like a wonderful ball technique. I love that I can try this with props that I have both at home and at the studio. This is the part of my body that I always want soothed, and now I can do it to myself, my family members and my students without feeling like my hands are going to fall off! Thank you.
It was SO GREAT to watch the video you created with Brooke Thomas! She was my anatomy teacher @Fresh Yoga for my 200RYT! Back then I had no interest in anatomy and couldn’t understand why she was so passionate about it! & Now I understand…!
what a great technique using the blocks as a vehicle to reach those pesky traps and supraspinatus – thanks – the video sealed the deal with a great visual
THIS IS SO AWESOME!! I love it and can’t wait to try this. What an genius idea to pin the ball from the top of the ultimate release. It’s exactly as my massage therapist does and I can now duplicate. Thank you!!
That is a great idea, using the “block dock”. I’m going to try that. I love it. I think it will go on my list of favorites. It looks so simple to do and I imagine it has wonderful results!
Thank you so much for this one, Lillee! Hands down one of my favorites, and I can’t use it enough these days to get into the supraspinatus and release all the muscles you mentioned. It’s such a clever way to get into these hard to reach areas.
Absolutely loved this post. Block Dock is a fresh and clever variation on using the therapy balls to release tension in the trapezius, and go deeper withPin and Stretch, laterally flexing the head, to release the levator scapula, scalenes and supraspinatus. I tried this and found it to be deliciously effective.
Thank you for the article and the video of your block dock therapy ball technique! It looks like a fantastic release and I can’t wait to try it out this weekend!
Lillee, thank you for the tip. I tried something similar this morning. I jacked up my trapezius sleeping the wrong way. Now I will have to travel with both pillows or make sure I have an extra blanket. Now I know the block dock. Also all the clients I work with that spend their day on computers or other technology.
I love the block dock and I had forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder. This truly is a source of bound tension on many people and such a cleaver way to reach it. Thank you.
This is a great post and thanks for the education on the deeper, often overlooked, muscles of the upper back and neck. I often roll onto my supraspinatus by gutting the ball in bridge, but this technique seems way more effective and the added neck stretch seems really really juicy. I can’t wait to try! Also, this approach is much more useful to students who may not be able to get to supraspinatus from bridge or the wall – it adds a completely restorative piece.
This is one of my favorite things to do! I love to do it on the edge of a wall. If one isn’t available, this is another really great option for me. Thank you!
I’ve never felt such incredible release then from this particular perspective with the Yoga Tune Up® balls. I’ve had massage therapists work on this area but they never stay long enough… The “Block Dock” has provided me with so much relief as I can stay here as long as I like and work so many directions of movement with both the head and the shoulder. Sheer B(all)iss.
Wow, Lilee, this is a great way to help me the Block Dock is such a creative idea and it really amazed me… keep on the good posts.. I love them
Oh wow! Will try this! It looks so much less strenuous on my thumbs! Thank you for this! It’s great!
Block dock my new best friend, amazing something so simple can bring such joy!!!
Thanks for sharing:-)
Thanks for sharing the block idea! I am traveling and don’t have blocks at the moment, but I just tried this at the edge of a wall and it felt wonderful.
OMG, I need this one for sure, and it is awesome that not super engaged else where and at an odd angle to try to release the traps. Thanks for this!!
This is genius! I have only tried to access this area in a door way in ardha uttanasana. This looks way more relaxing.
Lille, thanks so much for this post. Can’t wait to try it out. Gets to ease and tease out so many muscles. I have a very talkative supraspinatus, so this would be hugely beneficial to iron out some of the wrinkles!
Ooh nice variation to get into those hard to reach areas.
What a clever idea to get into that pesky supraspinatus. I am going to show this video to my teenage son who is always complaining about his neck and shoulders. I thought of him when I watched you flex your head away from the block.
That is the position that I find him sleeping in when I wake him up in the morning. I am hoping that this technique fixes his achey neck and that I do not actually need to buy him a bigger bed.
This was great, can’t wait to try this one to get to that tough to reach supraspinatus that always seems to be screaming. Though “fascia freedom fighters” is less cute, more cutesy …I get where we were supposed to be going on that but it sounds like something a health minded sara palin impersonator would come up with. Cleaver exercise though.
This is genius!
So beneficial for my clients who frequently travel with multi-hour flights — as well as those with new babies. That area is one that has been consistently a MAJOR challenge to release.
Thank you, Lilee!!
My clients thank you too 🙂
Some of my other favorite trap massages with balls:
–Leaning forward 90 degrees into a doorway or any corner with an outward projecting corner with the ball between one trap and the door frame or wall. Do one side at a time.
–Wedging a ball between my traps and my car seat while I’m driving. Not the most intense or effective, but a lot better than driving without a massage.
This is great! As a swimmer, yogi and tension holder I love how this can get into my traps, posterior delta, and my supraspinatus. I love how you show turning the head as a pin and stretch, it reminds me about all the times that I turn my head to breath in swimming.
Great release with the blocks! Thank you!
This is amazing! My traps (like most people’s) are chronically tight. I will be trying this tomorrow during my lunch break.
What an inventive and stress-free pose to access this trigger point. It’s wonderful to be able to control the pressure, which can be sensitive and quick to spasm if overdone for trigger points. Thanks!
This felt SO good. My shoulders are constantly “creeping up” when I sit at the computer, and I carry a lot of tension (even in my asanas) in my upper trapezius. You were right – the juicy part comes when you flex your neck to the side. I finished this up with keeping the balls in the tote on a block and laying my occipital bones on the tote and WOW does my neck feel better. Thank you for this exercise.
This is such a great and creative approach! I like how user friendly it can be for a lot of people. It takes away the effort needed to lift the hips off of the ground or if it may be difficult for someone to stand at wall. Thanks!
Looks absolutely delicious! I can’t wait to try this. I have very tight and over worked upper trapezius muscles since I love to shrug and tense my shoulders while sitting, standing, etc. The pin and PNF look especially delightful to release tension.
Thank you for sharing this. The majority of my tension is in the neck and upper back, specifically the trapezius. I don’t even notice how far up my shoulders are hiked when undergoing any amount of stress, it’s an automatic response. Getting gravity out of the equation in conjunction with the therapy balls is a wonderful tool to decongest the nexk. Feels great.
This appears to be a wonder solution for the upper Trap muscles, is there any additional version of this exercise that involves protraction of the rotator cuff?
Thank you Lilee! This treatment allows me to self-treat this hefty trigger-spot without extended protraction of the opposite shoulder in vain attempts to leverage enough finger pressure to make a dent in the upper traps! And only once that area is released can I then move into the crunchy stuff in the lower trapezius laying on and along my medial scapula.
Dear Lilee, much thanks for this post. It was nice to learn about how complex that area we simply call “the shoulder” is; is you said, many muscles run along the neck and shoulder. That epicenter — as you call it — has always given me trouble on both sides, and I find it so difficult to massage and relax the area from my mastoid process to the head of my humerus. Your therapy ball sequence was tremendously helpful! Not only did the balls ease some of the tension, they also enabled me to feel the complexity of the trigger point. I’ll be doing this massage often!
This is an excellent solution, I think that I will be using this for an upcoming international trip. I want to ensure that the rotation of my shoulder girdle is not inhibited by the jamming of Trap muscles from the airplane seat.
What an awesome technique for relieving tension in the upper trapezius. At the first sign of stress my shoulders are nearly pinned to my ears. I am so glad to have this one for my toolbox and to share it with my students. Thank you!
I love all self care techniques! Especially ball rolling in the traps! Everyone holds tension in their traps and most everyone has pain. I cant wait to be able to share these techniques with my patients so when they come to see me for massage, I can focus on deeper problems and not spend so much time on those trigger points in the traps! Thanks for the post.
I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of this variation. It totally took gravity of the shoulders out of play. This is a good one to share with clients and students with neck pain. They should feel supported.
I find this incredible helpful. I carry particular tension in my trapezius and found it difficult to really get into the area of tension with the therapy balls. After doing this ball work I found I had much more movement in my neck.
I love this one! I first experienced it in one of Lillee’s classes. My quick and dirty poor mans imitation is to simply hip flex (lean forward 90 degrees) in a doorway with arms hanging down the ball between my shoulder “gutter” and the interior of the door frame with my ear on the front of the door frame and wall. You can do PNF by pushing the lateral side of your head toward the wall and then relax.
Oh Lillee! How I wish I’d read this last night after the long drive home!! 😉 I love the pin and stretch in this area, and you’ve demonstrated an ingenious way to get it — not easy. I’ll be adding this to my regular routine. Thank you!
This trigger point looks like a great way to gain access to many different muscles at once. The use of props is very creative and functional. Therapy ball work is one of my favorite aspects of YTU and this example of using props to gain access to important areas has really got my wheels spinning and enthusiasm on how to Macgyver my own set ups to reach the spots that I need to but still be in control of the pressure. Using the hand to pull move the head and keeping the head relaxed is very clever also. Thank you very much for this video. It demonstrates and makes me aware of a lot of fundamentals and concepts and combines them very elegantly.
What a phenomenal little trick to get into that hard to reach spot! I’m adding this one to the tool belt because simply laterally extending my neck to stretch just isn’t’ cutting it.
Hello and thank you for this idea!
My wife often carries stress in just this area (traps, supraspinatus, levator scap) and whenever I try to relieve it by massaging it, she gets upset at me because it hurts her. I’m hoping that, after showing her this, she can apply what little pressure she can stand so that little by little she makes it all go away 🙂
Hi Lillee, Thanks so much for this post! After an 8 hour flight and 4 hour drive home from a recent vacation/training my shoulders and neck felt so jammed and constricted w/ a bit of discomfort on both sides of my cervical spine…YUCK! I set up the blocks and hit the floor to try Block Dock. All I can say is “this one is crazy good and going on my ball-icious list!!” I couldn’t believe the difference in release and mobility in my shoulders and neck. Thank you!