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This one’s a bit more practical and one of those “this has worked for me”. Obviously, if you’re having the same issue this might not work for you. However, I wanted to toss this out into the ether just incase I might be able to help someone out there.
When I first became serious about Squatting I was plagued with elbow pain (which hasn’t fully abated but has a different cause), specifically in my left elbow. This is a fairly common phenomena with Low-Bar squatters. Around the same time I noticed, from constantly filming my sets, that I had a significant lean to my right-hand side. Perhaps this is best illustrated by a video from my first meet:
This seemed to correlate with elbow pain and conceptually it made sense to me. If the bar was lower on the right-hand side it would pull up on my left arm irritating the connective tissue. I figured something was tight and pulling my right shoulder lower than my left. So I spent a lot of time hunting for trigger points on my right-side, specifically foam rolling the lats as I felt they were probably the primary issue. It got me largely nowhere.
I was able to compensate for the issue by actively shrugging my right shoulder up during Squats sets. This was suggested to me by Tom Campitelli and it worked fairly well until heavier sets where it was difficult to concentrate on keeping the shoulder higher. The pain abated but the issue persisted. Eventually the pain came back as well and I began hunting, once again, for an answer to the issue.
I had assumed that my shoulders were just asymmetrical as a result of an anatomical anomaly. I asked the 70’s Big guys if they had ever seen anything like this and Mike Battaglino made the correct call. He’d said that in the past his scalenes and traps and gotten tight in the past and he’d seen something similar. This was an entirely new idea for me as I’d spent all my time trying to treat the opposite side of the body than where the tightness had been occurring.
The trap/neck area is a hard area to hit. You can’t foam roll it, it’s pretty tough to hit with a lacrosse ball (other than the top of the traps). I had some success with a theracane. But what worked the best (and has continued to work) is hitting the area with a car buffer prior to Squatting. The car buffer works well for this because the machine does most of the work (as opposed to other methods which require your bodyweight or manual pressure). You can also push on it to apply additional pressure.
What’s worked for me is starting with the top of the traps and grinding on as much trap as you can reach back for, then working on the top of the traps and grazing the scalene muscles as much as possible. The neck is a very sensitive area (at least for me) so gentle pressure is all that’s required.
For further reading on this topic check out Paul Ingraham’s post on neck trigger points.
1. “Scalenus” by User:Mikael Häggström. Original uploader was Mikael Häggström at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:IngerAlHaosului using CommonsHelper. (Original text : Image:Gray387.png). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
2. “Trapezius Gray409” by Mikael Häggström. When using this image in external works, it may be cited as follows: Häggström, Mikael. “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 20018762. – Image:Gray409.png. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.