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How to Get Rid of Muscle Knots in Traps, Shoulder & Back in 90 seconds

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in May of 2020. For the original video go to

Bob: Boy do we have a treat for you today? Today we're going to show you how to get rid of muscle knots in the traps, trapezius, shoulders, and back in 90 seconds.

Brad: Exactly.

Bob: We're not hyping it, this is an actual technique and Brad's going to talk about how it worked on a different part of your body, right?

Brad: Oh yeah, I'm excited about this. It's nothing new and it's been scientifically proven by many studies, clinically proven. It started back in the 50s by Dr. Lawrence Jones. And originally it was called Strain/Counterstain.

Bob: That's what I remember from my earlier days.

Brad: Right, and now it's more often just called positional release. Typically, a therapist does it, but we can teach you the basic parts of this so that you can do it at home.

Bob: Yeah, we're basically going to show you how to get the knot out of the shoulder or upper back, a very common place for knots. It's a few steps but just follow along with us and you'll be able to catch on.

Brad: That typical spot, there is a trigger point oftentimes in the levator scapula or the upper trap, that tightness you get from poor posture, tension, all those things that add up in your life. And it seems to end up commonly, right here.

Bob: Yeah, I feel a little bit there.

Brad: Yep, and every patient I have had that I work on their shoulder, I usually find that spot and I say, "You see that?" And I say, "Don't worry, everyone has it on both sides". But when you're tight and it's painful, it's much worse. What you want to do, when you feel that tightness is take your opposite hand and reach over and find that knot. You'll find the muscles a little knottier there.

Bob: Yeah, it's an area of hyper-irritability. It's a nodule basically. A marble.

Brad: In school I had a teacher say, "It's like a tootsie roll." And it kind of is, it's about that size and you'll feel it and it’s tender. And when it's really knotted up, it's very tender. So just palpate that and get a benchmark for how painful it is. Now you can do this in a couple of different positions, but I'm going to show you how to do it side lying. If the right shoulder has the knot, then you're going to lie on your left side. We’re probably going to need two pillows.

Bob: I can still palpate that area too lying on my side like this.

Brad: Now, the thing about this is it's a positional release and the position of your head and your shoulder is very critical. The muscle basically starts at the far end of the clavicle and goes up to the head and we want to shorten that muscle as much as possible.

Brad: The whole theory is, neurologically, that's going to allow the muscle to relax, which is going to increase circulation, blood flow, and oxygen which is going to allow that knot to release. And you'll feel that when you get that circulation going, everything feels much better, and it carries on. Now that we have covered the theory, we're going to go back to the practice. So, Bob is going to take his head, if his right is the painful side, he's going to side bend his right ear towards his right shoulder. Then he's going to extend a little bit, and look away from the right shoulder, or rotate to the left.

Bob: So, I'm bringing my head back a little bit. And then look away.

Brad: So this is kind of an awkward position and then we need enough pillows so that you can relax and maintain that position. Now you can palpate again if you feel that painful spot dramatically decreases when you touch it, this is all the farther you have to go. Then you have to hit a timer or watch the second hand on the clock and you go for 90 seconds in that position, it's critical you go at least 90 seconds for things to release. Now, if you palpate and still feel sore, then we're going to add shoulder or scapular elevation, so the shoulder goes up towards the ear. You may want another pillow for the painful side arm to relax.

Bob: Or you could even bring your arm up overhead?

Brad: Yep, or you can reach over the top like this. And you can adjust yourself however it takes so that muscle relaxes, and the painful spot feels better.

Bob: Oh, I can feel the knot is just disappearing now, the one that was there.

Brad: So, what pain level were you at when you pushed initially?

Bob: It was maybe at one or two. And now it's gone.

Brad: It's gone, so you're there. So, the person is completely relaxed in a quiet area for at least 90 seconds.

Bob: Can you do this in a seated position, Brad?

Brad: Yes, you can. You probably want to do it in a recliner or something where you can get pillows. We’re going to give you a bonus here. So, 90 seconds went by, now it's critical when you come out of this position you come out of it slowly. And you just relax, you're breathing. Bob is going to get up in a nice relaxed, slow manner.

Bob: I'm breathing.

Brad: Yep breathing, relaxed. And when you're done, you can do some gentle and slow range of motion with your neck. We're not going to get after it and stretch hard on it or anything like that, we're just going to do some gentle motion. Remember that muscle's relaxed, now we want circulation to continue to flow, just allow it to continue to relax.

Brad: Also, you can do a little massage on it as well if you want, not hard. The knot is gone, we just need to get the circulation moving. And then you're done. You can repeat that three or four times a day because it may come back particularly if you're tense or if you have poor posture and you're not aware of it. Poor posture is often why that particular knot starts or originates.

Bob: Yeah a lot of times you're not moving and you're concentrating and you're focused on your work and that's how it develops, but let's try it in a seated position.

Brad: Sure.

Bob: So basically, I'm going to do lateral side bending. So, I'm going to the right and I'm bringing it back a little bit, now I'm turning away. Then I'm lifting the shoulder.

Brad: Now, again, Bob does not have a chair to lean into and relax in so this would be a lot better if you were in a recliner. And then you would have a pillow. At least one pillow there to rest your arm on. You could have a pillow behind your head. A recliner so you can adjust the angle would probably be ideal for someone on this.

Bob: I have to be honest; I think I almost would rather do it sitting.

Brad: It may be a good option. In the clinic, it’s easier side lying because you've got a patient laying there and it's easier to work with.

Bob: That really zaps it away.

Brad: This has been proven.

Bob: I guess I'm a little shocked that it's working that well. The pain was there and now it's gone.

Brad: This is going to be big, Bob.

Bob: All right well if you want to do it on the other side, I'm going to show that quick too. So left side, left side problem we're going to angle, laterally side bend. You're going to extend it a little bit. You're going to turn away and then you're going to elevate the shoulder.

Brad: If you don't have something to rest the arm on if you do it seated, it's not going to work because your muscle is going to contract to hold that shoulder up.

Bob: So, you can't do it sitting without support, you need to be leaning in a chair.

Brad: Yep, and support the elbow and the arm. I did this technique for my tennis elbow along with cross-friction massage and another mobilization that was helping.

Bob: And it really helped.

Brad: The next day I forgot all about it. It's like "Oh, my tennis elbow is gone."

Bob: Yeah, he's going to do a video on tennis elbow too.

Brad: Thanks for watching everybody, appreciate it.

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