Are the tops of your shoulders knotted, painful and tight?  That most often means that you have been sitting or working with them scrunched up.  Muscles kind of  ‘get stuck’ in the positions that we use the most.

Here’s what to do to help those muscles relax and get rid of their knots:

1.  Scrunch your shoulders up to your ears hard.  Hold them there for about a minute or until you start to feel your muscles getting tired.

Then let them go.  Let your arms be long and heavy.

You can do this a couple of times a few times a day.  The idea is to fatigue the muscles so they can relax–wear them out.

2.  Use cold packs or ice massage or heat on the tops of your shoulders.  Heat is the last choice.

Find directions in the Heat and Cold categories on the right hand side of the page at or

3.  Throw something.  Seriously. 🙂  Toss rocks into a stream or balls across a field.  Try different arm positions.

The idea is to start using those muscles so they get back in the habit of being more relaxed.  Using those muscles helps increase blood flow in them so they can feel better.

Muscles love to move!

4.  Pay attention to your shoulders.  Whenever you notice them creeping up, allow them to relax and drift downward into a more relaxed position.

Taking action with these simple steps will help you start to get rid of the tight muscles on top of your shoulders.


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12 Comments on How To Get Rid Of Knots On The Top Of Your Shoulders

  1. mary says:

    thanks so much for the tip. i tried the scrunching of shoulders technique. i was very impressed. also i never ever had heard of that before. would love to know some more little tricks that you have up your sleeve. thanks-

  2. Thank you, Mary! There were a few more in that article. Once when I was traveling my upper shoulders got so tired and achy but when I started tossing rocks into a lake, they felt so much better! It was a learning experience. Muscles love being used. Scrunching your shoulders uses the muscles.

    Thank you for writing,

    The Pain Relief Coach

  3. Valerie Catt says:

    I am 55years old and in fairly good health. I need to loose 50 or 60# but over all things are good. I do have some high blood pressure as well. About a month ago we went to a Production and I had to sit behind a post in order to see…. I have not been the same since… it started in my neck and upper shoulder that moved to my upper arm…does not seem to effect range of motion but I had to sleep in a chair for two weeks. I tried alternating Tylenol and Ibuprofen for three day to see it that would help. Now my stomach is a mess. I get knots in my left arm and back. I have seen a chiropractor and some time I get relief but this is going on a month. I started taking a magnesium/calcium supplement recently, but am becoming concerned I have a nerve disease. Any advice would be appreciated very much… sincerely Val

  4. Hi Val, I think you came up with your own diagnosis! 🙂

    It started when you had to twist or tilt your head to see around that post and that aggravated some muscles in your neck. These are the same muscles that will cause knots in your upper back. They are on the sides of your neck, basically.

    Additionally, you may have been leaning to one side and that could have caused the muscles on that side of your ribs to get into a shortened contraction.

    So, here is my best long distance suggestion for relief:

    1. If you stretch the short side of your body (the side with the knots) that should help. Stretch that arm (if you can without causing more discomfort) over your head and tilt to the opposite side. This is a long, gentle stretch. Long, slow, gentle and thoughtful stretch.

    2. Ice your neck. Wrap cold therapy bags or bags of frozen peas around the sides and back of your neck and upper shoulder. Ice/cold therapy will help your muscles relax and it’s the ‘drug of choice’ for nerve-related pain.

    3. If you can find a massage therapist who knows how to release or relax the scalene muscles, he or she will be able to help, too.

    From your description of your symptoms, the scalene muscle sounds like the culprit. These muscles cause the knot in your back symptoms that you describe. Other muscles in your upper shoulder may also be joining in the parade. (Because they like to do things together.)

    I’m not a doctor. But I’m betting you don’t have a nerve disease. You have some crabby muscles that will respond to cold therapy. I’ll betcha! 🙂 It’s amazing how much pain and disfunction muscles are responsible for. And they are frequently overlooked as a cause of pain.

    Let me know, Val, how these ideas work out for getting rid of the knots in your back and left arm.

    The Pain Relief Coach

  5. Val, you can find articles about how to use cold therapy at in the Cold and Heat category on the right hand side of the website.

    The Pain Relief Coach

  6. Orit says:

    Thanks for such wonderful tips! I have been sufferring so much over the past 18 months! The only thing that has helped is deep tissue massage which I can only do so often. Even when I do it, after a few dyas I am back in pain. I had stopped doing aerobics because it seemed the somewhat uncontrolled arm movements and the amount of them was making it worse. I tried the lifting my shoulders up high technique and it was amazing how well that worked. I have also used heat and ice and I am nearly pain free! I am so happy to have found your site! I am going t try throwing baseballs with my son and see how that works. Thanks!!!!!

  7. Hi Orit,

    Thank you for taking advantage of the articles here and thank you for sharing your success and doing all the right things. 🙂 Good job taking action to get rid of your upper back and shoulder pain! I’m happy you are getting rid of those knots in your shoulders!

    The Pain Relief Coach

  8. Heather says:

    Thank you for this i feel somewhat better now but ill check back in tomarro after my excersise

  9. cathy tyner says:

    I was told I had a muscle knot the size of a golf ball in my upper left trapezius muscle. First, my left shoulder started to ache mildly here and there. Then as the days went by, my left arm began to hurt further but never down, but never past my elbow. The numbness and then the tingling began and the really debilitating pain began. I have received injections and medicines such as muscle relaxers. Nothing has helped. I have noticed a pattern. I feel better standing up. When I sit down, my left arm hurts a lot. I stand from 730 am to around 1130 am at work and then I am sitting in front of a computer until 430pm. I am waiting for a Thera Cane Messager that I just ordered. What can do that would would most benefit my problem? I am in so much pain, it is unbearable. I would be so very grateful for your help.

  10. Hi Cathy,

    If you have read many of the articles here about the causes of knots in your back, you already know that where it hurts isn’t usually where the problem is. The knot is most often a response to something going on elsewhere (that’s being ignored.)

    Knots are symptoms. Symptoms lie all the time. If the injections and treatments were into the knot and didn’t work there is a reason. The reason is the knot cannot relax until you get rid of the CAUSE of the muscle knot.

    My understanding of muscle relaxants is they help the whole muscles (all of the muscles, actually) relax…except for the knot or contraction. They are just symptom relief but don’t get rid of the cause of the knots.

    Your position is a clue. There must be something that you do differently when you sit to work at the computer. Perhaps you turn your head to one side? Or maybe your whole upper body? Are you standing with good posture when you stand at work or moving in many different directions? Those things are good for us.

    But when you sit down is your work station a good fit for you? Are you left-handed? Is that your mouse hand? Do you stretch to reach the keyboard?

    The plan is to stretch or massage or press the muscles in the front of your left shoulder on your upper chest. Here’s one way to stretch those muscles http://www.simplebackpainrelie.....ool-video/

    The muscles in the chest and ribs and maybe neck are the ones that are most likely causing your muscle knot in your trapezius.

    Please answer the questions above so we can put our heads together and come up with some more solutions to help you get rid of the knot in your trapezius. Well, it is definitely in your upper back in the area of your trapezius muscle. 🙂

    The Pain Relief Coach

  11. Beverly McGee says:

    Hi I’m in need of advice asap!! I have the worst pain in my neck but mainly my left shoulder,I have always had some sort of pain but nothing like this it is unbearable. the muscles (trapezis) I think its called, the ones between your neck and shoulder are swollen and my shoulder blade is so stiff and nothing is working!!!!!!!! I have done the pain releivers both Rx and Otc, had a massage, taken hot bath/shower, stretched and tried both hot therapy (heating pad) and cold therapy (frozen veggies) but as soon as I take it away I instantly feel my muscles throb. I’m so tense nothing relaxes me and I’m lost of what to do I cant stand the pain for another second!! PLEASE TELL ME YOU KNOW A SOLUTION THAT WILL END THE PAIN!!! I have 3 kids and being stuck in bed or the couch is not an option when 2 of them are toddlers!! Thank you for your time.

  12. Hi Beverly,

    I apologize for my delay in responding; was away from technology for a couple of days. I hope you are starting to feel better. Here are my suggestions for the muscle pain in your left shoulder:

    1. Ice packs. On for 20 minutes or until numb. Off. On again. Repeat as often as possible. Use it on the tops of your shoulders, your upper chest and the sides of your neck.
    2. Over the counter anti-inflammatory. Aleve or sodium naproxen works best for me when I have a muscle injury. Keep the dose steady for a few days if you need more than one dose. Sometimes just one or two will take care of it.
    3. Hike your shoulders to your ears. Hold them there for 20 seconds. Let them relax. This tires out the trapezius muscle and should help it relax.
    4. It sounds like muscles around or on the inside of your shoulder blade may be in spasm. Try rolling your shoulder blade around (like a lion) to get them moving a bit.
    5. A massage therapist should know how to ‘unroll’ the trapezius but, in my experience, most don’t. That muscle likes to unroll from front to back. You could call and inquire before making an appointment with a massage therapist. Pressing directly down into it just doesn’t do it.
    6. Since you always have this pain you need some help to correct your posture. Strengthening your back and the muscles in the back of your neck will probably help. You might have an asymmetry that needs to be corrected if you are off balance. Do you carry the babies on one hip? If it’s always the same hip that might be aggravating your neck.

    Beverly, I hope this helps you get rid of the pain in your left shoulder muscles.

    The Pain Relief Coach