As a Massage Therapist, one of the most common complaints of discomfort seems to come from the shoulders. Its often described as a coat hanger shape moving along the tops of the shoulders and up the neck. This is why the trapezius muscle is nicknamed “The Coat Hanger Muscle.” But what if I told you the problem may not be coming from your traps but from the front of your body? It may be coming from your pectoral muscles and the surrounding support.
Your muscles exist to support your bones and execute movement, in order to do this they work on a well balanced pulley system. So basically when relaxed your muscles are still holding slight tension in order to hold you up right and in place.
Now for example, movement occurs when the contracting groups of muscles “the agonist” or the biceps shorten causing your arm to bend at the elbow while simultaneously “the antagonist” or the triceps have to relax and extend to allow for this movement to happen, while also still holding some tension so you don't smack yourself in the face every time you bend your elbow. There’s this constant controlled tension between the two sides, its quite amazing if you stop and think about it. Your body does this unconsciously all the time, while sitting down, working out and even typing! It’s always working.
So, think of your body as this well oiled machine that’s constantly working to help you move and go about life. Hopefully, this makes it easy to imagine sometimes things don’t always work as they should.
This pulley system is what gets your traps in trouble. Think about some of the repetitive things you do all day, drive cars, sit at desks and type on computers, maybe you work on repairing machines all day. What all of these things have in common, is holding your arms in front of you for extended periods of time. This means the front of your body is hard at work producing movement while your upper back muscles are holding a slight extension which can be very fatiguing especially since we don't prepare our bodies to do that.
What’s crazy is people spend their whole lives thinking that the problem is their traps, and there is some truth to that, but you also need to be looking at the pecs and how tight they are. I find the most effective way to relieve the traps and shoulders is by first focusing on the pecs; by opening and releasing tension in this area this allows the upper back muscles like your traps and rhomboids to relax and sit in a more natural position, relieving some of the discomfort in your shoulders and neck.
Next time you stretch or get a massage make sure to spend sometime on your pectoral muscles and even your anterior deltoids. Consequently, then you may start to notice better posture, less discomfort and a better ability to move.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about discomfort in these areas and would like a massage, or need some help improving your posture and movement.
Certified Neuromuscural Therapist
Spa Eir . (425)576-8189 . spaeir.com