Deep Massage for the Trapezius: Therapy for the Sails of Life

We use our shoulders, arms and hands to take action.  And, on the other hand, when we talk they are used expressively – they are parts of speech.  We see also in writing and sign language an entirely linguistic use of shoulders, arms and hands.   Massage itself meaningfully bridges these two worlds of action and language.  We perform our strokes with shoulders, arms and hands and use them to convey anatomical information and non-verbal messages.

We have all felt clients whose shoulder blades virtually adhere to the ribcage. Structurally and energetically, the shoulder blades’ ability to glide freely over ribs is of enormous importance.  Without that freedom, stress, instead of “rolling” off our backs, can become “impacted”, affecting the free excursion of ribs, spine, ultimately the lungs and heart.

The energy flowing vertically through the body intersects in the shoulders and upper limbs with horizontal flows reaching out to the world around us.  This can be seen as an axis of love.


The trapezius is one of the body’s primary energetic shock absorbers, just as lower limbs are the body’s main physical shock absorbers.  As stress comes and goes, trapezius’ tension increases then dissipates. However, with chronic stress or acute trauma, the body may absorb stress, rather than letting it go.

In the trapezius virtually every adult carries some residue of tension from their past.  Sometimes they are holding the tension from just the last stressful week; sometimes the tension you feel has been there for years, sometimes since childhood.  The holding of tension from the past diminishes our capacity for dissipating everyday stress.  When shock absorbers start losing resilience, the effects of stress can stay longer and may go deeper into the body, ultimately affecting our emotions, mind, and spirit as well.

A primary purpose for trapezius work then is to let go of any residue of the past that no longer serves us and to initiate new habits of handling stress by letting go, rather than by absorbing it.

The freed trapezius allows the full excursion of breath underneath it.  It amplifies healthy movement of upper limbs and torso. The healthy trapezius is a sail.  Freed, it enables us to tack into the winds of life with optimized momentum and wastes no energy holding onto what we no longer need.