Headache at the base of your skull? This could be the culprit.

Updated: May 7

The upper trapezius is one of the sources of headaches in this area. Learn how to properly stretch it so the pain goes away!

Muscle anatomy


The upper trapezius is a large, flat muscle close to the skin that covers the space between the neck and shoulder. The upper trapezius raises the shoulder and brings the shoulder blades closer to each other. For the neck it rotates the head and helps the head to tilt to the side.


It becomes tight and shortened when you constantly lift the shoulders leading to general tension in the area. The reason for lifting your shoulder can be anything from being cold or feeling stressed.


Releasing the muscle is a great way to prepare it for stretching. You can learn how to do this by going here. After the release, stretching is the next step.


Benefits of stretching

  • Stretching helps our bodies in several different ways:

  • It keeps the muscles flexible, strong and healthy

  • It helps to maintain a range of motion in the joints

  • Without flexibility, the muscles become short and tight

  • Tight muscles are weak and unable to extend all the way causing pain

  • Flexible muscles need less energy to maintain their position

The stretch

  1. Sit on a chair with your back and abs slightly tightened. Reach behind you with your right hand and grab the edge of the chair. Lean your upper body to the left, keeping your head upright until you feel a light pull in your right shoulder or upper arm.

  2. Now try to lift your right shoulder toward the ceiling for five seconds. Do not allow your body to move sideways. Relax for a couple of seconds and then lean your upper body a little more to the side. This is the correct starting point for the stretch.

  3. Tilt your head to the left and then rotate your head to the right. Do not let your head drop forward.

  4. Place your left hand over the top of the head and gently, with just the weight of your hand, pull your head to the right shoulder and hold for 10 seconds.

  5. Resist by carefully pushing the side of your head into your hand for 5 seconds.

  6. Relax the contraction and gently stretch the muscle for 10 seconds. It should relax a little bit more to a new stretch point.

  7. Resist by carefully pushing the back of your head into your hand for 5 seconds again.

  8. Relax the contraction and gently stretch the muscle for 10 seconds finding a new stretch point.

  9. Slowly raise head to starting position.

  10. Repeat on other side.

  11. Perform periodically during the day – as much as 5-10 times.


After this release is done, there should be a larger range of motion and less pain when you move. Enjoy!

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