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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Trapezius tension


gav

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:shrug: I am increasingly aware of how tight and tense I am in the trapezius muscle, both in and out of ballet class. In ballet class, I can see that it's hindering me from all sorts of things I should and want to accomplish: freeing up movement in my neck, relaxing my shoulders, creating width through the back, getting my weight more forward. Out of class, it's linked to occasional tension headaches (which always start in the base of my neck) and generally not being as at ease as I would like.

 

I have definite moments when I am able to release the tension, and I am trying to think about this on a regular basis now. But I think it's contracted to some degree most of the time -- including in sleep, which is really hard to change! Massage is great, but I think because the tension is so habitual, so ingrained in my muscle memory, it can really only help for so long at a stretch.

 

So, my basic question is: What can I do to let it go?

 

And, in more detail: In your experience, am I likely compensating for weak muscles elsewhere? If so, which ones, and do you have any suggestions on how to strengthen them? Or do you have any imagery you like to use to help release the muscles in this area?

 

I will gladly explore any suggestions you have, and I can also try to answer any other questions you might have before offering any suggestions. Thanks in advance.

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Have you considered seeing a physiotherapist (physical therapist)? I see one for similar problems and she has helped me to figure out any muscle imbalances or habits that contribute to it. She has also helped to release it through deep tissue massage etc and given me exercises and stretches to help. I don't have time to write more right now but I would definitely recommend going to a professional who can see you!

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I profess no real expertise in the area of reducing tension in muscles, but can think of two things you might try. One is to try to release overall muscle tension by doing such things as yoga, tai chi, or progressive relaxation (my personal favorite). My experience in yoga and progressive relaxation is that at least you learn to recognize tension and can often just let it go by simply recognizing it. The disadvantage of these activities is that they take time, something that is always difficult for working adults.

 

Another possibility is to simply contract your trapezius by shrugging your shoulders and holding that shrug for a few seconds and then taking a deep breath and completely relaxing them. Try imagining your traps completely relaxing as you exhale. You can do this several times a day and during ballet class for that matter. This is kind of a progressive relaxation approach. I’ve never done it with respect to an isolated muscle group, but it might be worth a try.

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Thanks for the suggestions. I am aware that all of those things are options and have found yoga helpful in the past. (A proper downward dog is my friend. Especially if it's held for a while.)

 

I was directing my questions at the teachers, especially, to see if there's any insight out there of where I should be turning my attention -- area-of-the-body-wise rather than outside-services-wise. Any suggestions, teachers?

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You may want to try breaking up your muscles against the corner of a wall. Lean into the wall and rock back and fourth a little bit, then move over to a different area.

 

Both my Trapezius are all spasmed up due to a traumatic and spinal injury and I can't break it up with TENS and high level muscle relaxers or narcotics. Occasionally I work the back on the corner of the wall with some improvement.

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I think this is a really common condition for anyone spending a long time at a desk. When writing my PhD I had a lot of trouble with this muscular tension, and it translated into ballet class as "Shoulders!!!!!" I've had physiotherapy over the years, but my neck/shoulders were once so spasmed and tight that my physiotherapist recommended an acupuncture session before the physiotherapy session. A course of acupuncture sessions helped wonderfully.

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I have trapezius tension as well. I use a foam roller for my back and I also have a massage ball (it has little nubs on it but a tennis ball works too) that I use on my neck/shoulders. Throughout the day I remind myself to keep my shoulders back and down. This has helped some. If the trapezius is really tight/tense it can seem impossible to get the shoulders down. I also do yoga (which you've mentioned). A nice bath also helps relax muscles.

 

I also have the problem during sleep and am not sure how to fix that. I just roll out my back before bed but that doesn't always help.

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