Have you ever been frustrated that you constantly stretch and still feel tight?
Stretching is usually the go-to modality when you feel tight in a muscle. However, stretching almost never solves the feeling of tightness.
Tightness is a protective mechanism from your nervous system when it senses you could enter into a range of motion that could injure you, which is why I’m not a huge fan of stretching.
Stretching bypasses your nervous system’s natural protective mechanism (tightness). Your body is trying to protect you from a range of motion that it can’t control.
We don’t know if the tightness is because of unfamiliarity with that range of motion or due to instability or because there is a structural block like a bone spur, cartilage or ligament tear, etc.
So because we can’t know your nervous system’s reason for holding tightness without imaging, it might be safer to respect the tightness. In my membership, we work to improve mobility by...
"I keep stretching, foam rolling, massage gun-ing, ALL THE THINGS...and my upper traps are STILL tight. WHY!?"
I've been there. I remember sitting in class during PT school, stretching my upper traps CONSTANTLY. I was regularly applying pressure to a "knot" I felt, was spending money on massages every week, and still never felt permanent relief. In fact, it got worse.
It was a vicious cycle of stretch, slight improvement, back to the same discomfort minutes later—massage, temporary relief, discomfort again the next day. Any relief was always fleeting.
I've learned several things that have finally provided lasting changes in my upper trap/neck pain. Many of these things may be the opposite of what you've learned, but try to keep an open mind! My suggestion is to give them a go for a couple of weeks and see what happens. Because my guess is, you've also tried the stretching and massage and still haven't found relief. So what do you have to lose?...