Trigger Traps

By Sharon Truelove

Today, let’s talk about “pain”. You may try to locate the pain, and touch it, as an example, at the base of you skull, but…that’s just not it. A lot of times, “trigger points” may be the culprit; the primary place where you feel the pain, may not be where the cause is.

When under stress, one of the first muscles to cause pain is the traps.The trapezius (traps) are broad and attach at the base of the skull, the back of the neck, over the upper shoulders and extend down the upper back to the mid back.

Pain in the traps is caused by stress. It produces achy shoulders and neck, and often it is deep. Tension in these muscles may bring about headache (temples, behind the eyes, base of the skull).  The pain may be perceived as a burning between the shoulder blades (usually after sitting at a computer without elbow support).

Many things cause set up pain in the traps….mainly stress.

  • The first and primary cause is carrying the shoulders up (toward the ears). Relax.
  • Head-forward posture. Sit up straight, lower the shoulders and bring the head back.
  • Holding a phone between the ear and shoulder. Get a headset.
  • Carrying an overweight purse or backpack. Is everything you are carrying really necessary? Switch carrying it from one should to the other frequently.
  • Too-tight bra straps or the weight of heavy breasts pulling on straps. Have a bra fitted by someone trained to get a good fit.
  • Sleeping on the back or stomach with the head tuned to one side (any position where the head is turned to one side for a long period can cause problems). Try to change sleeping positions.
  • Bending forward while working (sewing, computer, reading…) Sit up.
  • Keyboard too high. Forearms should be parallel with the floor.
  • Working in a chair with no arm rests. Support the arms to prevent trap pain.
  • Whip lash. This one requires recovery time.
  • Any activity that relies on the traps a lot…playing a violin or piano, backpacking, bike riding… Be aware of your posture and take breaks as necessary.



1.  Exercise is a great way to relieve and prevent pain in the traps. It increases circulation and relaxes them, and if done correctly, can strengthen supporting muscles that help with good posture.

2.  Find the trigger point and press on it.  Apply firm but gentle pressure for 10-30 seconds

Traps may  be tender and sore and have spots which “hurt so good” to be pressed, are very likely to have tender knots or trigger points.  Pressing on these points can help release the muscle and ease the pain from its strain. 

When you press on any of the areas shown in red above, you are likely to find a tender area.   Sometimes you will feel the muscle relax under your fingers.
3.  Difficult to find Trigger Points.  The following are some suggestions to help with the difficult to reach spots.

I.  Lying down:  When lieing down, the traps relax, use a pillow to keep your neck aligned with your spine.

II.  Tennis Ball
Use a tennis ball (or hard rubber ball) under the shoulder of the tender areas and lie on it. By moving your body, you can control the location and pressure.

IV.  You can also use the tennis ball against a door frame.  It may look awkward, but it can be a nice way to reach the tops of the shoulders.

V.  A Thera Cane or Back Buddy can be a great investment!  Maybe even a curved stick! 🙂

Try the various techniques and tell us what you think.


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