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Deep Tissue Massage for Upper Body Trigger Points

Updated: May 12, 2021

Hello friends! How are you doing this fine fall week? I am excited to share that my furry best friend is here through Sunday, Ruxin! This week, being blessed with perfect weather, we went to the National Arboretum. He has also been especially helpful in assisting me with yoga, particularly when I am lying on the floor. I hope you are able to meet him this week in one of my online classes.

Last week was suspenseful and on top of everything else that is 2020, I know we could use a little trigger point therapy. So my offering to you today are 3 trigger points to work on with a lacrosse ball. I recommend a lacrosse ball because a tennis ball is too soft to make much of a difference.


What is a trigger point?

Trigger points are hyperirritable points in a taut band of muscle tissue that are painful on compression. There could be several causes to your trigger point. One theory suggests that stress on the area releases the chemical acetylcholine, creating sustained contraction of the muscle fibers. These are also referred to as "knots" and they can cause decreased range of motion, leading to more issues down the road.



Your rhomboids are located under the superficial trapezius muscle and are responsible for protracting and retracting your shoulder blades. The fibers run more diagonally from the spine to scapula.

I like to use a wall first to control the pressure. Place the ball between your spine and the edge of your shoulder blade, where you see the "x's" and red in the picture to the left (be sure to not run the ball over your spine!), lean into the wall until you feel sensation and, moving slowly, move up and down by bending and straightening your legs.

If you can go deeper, lie down on the ball in a spot where you feel the most sensation and slowly move your arm from across your body to fully extended, proximal to distal. This palpates the muscle while it is stretching and contracting.


This is not the first time I have addressed suboccipital trigger points! This area, when strained, can cause a lot of pain and even headaches. Be careful in this area not to press directly on your spine, and take it easy the first few days by only working it for a minute or two. There are a lot of important nerves here that you need to avoid. Also, hold the ball with your hand so it is stable and you can slowly roll your head back and forth (micro movements will do).

Pectoralis Major

I am including the pec muscles because when they are tight, they pull the shoulders forward causing the upper back muscles - traps, rhomboids, levator scapulae - to be in a constant strain. So to really work your upper back pain, you also need to address the front! I do not move around as it is so intense to just lie on the ball.

I hope this provides you a little relief this week, enjoy!


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