Muscle tightness

Why are my Upper Traps always tight?

It is a common complaint

One of the most frequent problems we see in the clinic, is people with tight shoulders. Given the prevalence of desk jobs, many consider tight shoulders just a fact of modern life. However we often find that tight upper traps are rarely the real issue and rather they are a symptom of the body being unhappy.

In particular, we find that tension in the upper traps is often present when there is neural irritation. Nerves should be able to move freely and easily through the body however they can get restricted. Nerves are quite sensitive and may get irritated by a variety of causes including tight neck joints, stress and sickness. When nerve irritation occurs, the brain switches on “protective mode” and creates a wide-ranging response, aimed at avoiding further aggravation. This protective response can include symptoms such as pain, numbness, pins and needles or weakness, as well as muscle tightness and movement restriction.

Why do they get tight?

Upper traps are one of the muscles that is often part of this protective response. Given their role in protecting the nerves, releasing them directly often won’t make lasting changes. It may give some temporary relief although sometimes it can result in an aggravation of symptoms.

So if you releasing the upper traps is not the answer, then what do you do? Treatment should be aimed at working out why the upper traps are tight and treating the underlying cause. By addressing the primary issue, the brain can then switch off (or decrease) the protective response and in turn, then upper traps should start to soften.

If you or someone you know is experiencing tight upper traps or possible nerve irritation, please contact us. We can determine if it is a musculoskeletal issue before having to see a GP. We are open 5 days a week and a couple Saturdays a month. We have early and late appointments available. Please call us at 1300 842 850 or click here to book an appointment.

Sports physio

Old injuries coming back to bite you

Old injuries and Accumulative Strain

Remember that incident from years and years back? The one has completely healed and doesn’t give you any pain, but it was a pretty big deal at the time? It may not seem related to a pain you are currently experiencing, and maybe it isn’t, but no matter where or what the injury was, it DID cause load and strain on the body. This load and strain causes other muscles and nerve pathways to fire differently – initially, it might be for a protective response, but over time, those adaptations to avoid pain can become your new ‘normal’ leading to tight muscles, irritated nerves and restricted movements. Pushing into these limits over and over can lead to pain in a seemingly new area.


If we take an example of a surfing incident and hitting the waves hard, the breath may have been knocked out of you, nothing was broken, but your body had been very sore and it took a week or so to be moving normal again. Your body will have been moving very differently as taking a breath was hurting you. Your breathing becomes shallow, you limit your turning and arm movements because it hurts and this continues without you realizing even after the initial pain is gone.

Fast forward to now, you are back at the gym, back at work, and your shoulder starts getting sore over a period of a couple weeks.

You come to us, we assess and treat. We draw your accumulative strain graph on the board and we work with you to find out how your body has come to this point:

What we are looking at is how the body has been dealing with strain up until that surfing incident. The other points of discussion are what else causes strain:

  • Poor sleep
  • Stress at work, financially, or with relationships/family
  • Poor or changed nutrition
  • Energy levels

Other injuries also go onto this list:

  • Rolled ankles
  • Car accidents
  • Neck pain

Each time your body takes on one of these events, you may never get back into the optimal zone or a low level of strain. These events can layer on each other and our body becomes less tolerant and more likely to be triggered into a pain event.


Strain builds up and our body handles it, but at the expense of something else: a different muscle pattern is now required or that last bit of movement is coming from the joints above or below that injury. You start using these postures in everyday life, and so those muscles now are working harder and harder. Eventually, you keep pushing and pushing, and for your body to tell you to stop, you get pain.

When you come to us, our Barefoot Approach will bring us to the full body check, so we can discover if some of these old injuries are holding you back from feeling great! Book online or call to chat to one of our physios to discuss any new pains that could be stemming from older injuries!

Rib treatment

Rib pain and physiotherapy treatment

Our rib cage is an essential for protection of our organs, having a strong trunk and is involved in our everyday movements, like breathing or turning our bodies. Our rib cage rises and falls with each breath using the muscles between the ribs and our diaphragm. Just like any other joint and muscle, these areas can be loaded and irritated. Rib pain is frustrating and can be treated with Physiotherapy.


Sometimes rib pain is hard to describe because there is not a specific place where it occurs. Often, we hear comments like:

  • “When I take a deep breath, it hurts”
  • “I have a burning or achiness at the middle of my back”
  • “There is a pain under my shoulder blade that I cannot reach with a trigger ball or roller”
  • “I have pain that starts in my back but wraps around my side”

Other times, it is more obvious as to why there may be pain in the ribs or around the ribs, and clients may come in already with a diagnosis from their GP or another physiotherapist, including:

  • Rib fractures – this may be diagnosed with an x-ray, but small fractures are sometimes hard to pick up even with a scan 
  • Rib pain in pregnancy – as the belly expands, then rib cage also has to make space accordingly
  • Costochondritis syndrome – inflammation of the area where the rib is attaching to the sternum at the front of the chest
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome – an issue with blood flow that may be associated with compression from the upper ribs of the blood vessels branching out to the arms
  • Rib spasm – a reactive response of the muscles between the ribs called intercostals


Our holistic approach at Barefoot Physiotherapy will help to determine the underling causes and triggers related to your rib pain. We implement a specific rib technique that treats the rib cage as a ring, called Thoracic Rings (developed and taught by LJ Lee, a Canadian physio). This approach looks at each ring and how they may be interacting with each other, therefore, causing load and muscle pull in your area of pain. This understanding is termed Connect Therapy (LJ Lee).

Our treatment techniques involve rib joint mobilizations, manual therapy rib and ring corrections, muscle release for the intercostals (between rib muscles) and surrounding areas like the back and shoulders, individually tailored motor control activation, and maintenance exercises.

Rib pain is not always straightforward, and we are here to help you understand where it is coming from so that you are able to return to your everyday life without having to worry about it. We will develop a treatment plan based on your specific presentation and create self-management strategies to maintain being pain free.

If you or someone you know is experiencing rib, trunk, or chest pain, please contact us. We can determine if it is a musculoskeletal issue before having to see a GP. We are open 5 days a week and a couple Saturdays a month. We have early and late appointments available. Please call us at 1300 842 850 or click here to book an appointment.

Barefoot Physiotherapy Brisbane

What is nerve pain?

Nerve pain is a common contributing factor to a person’s overall pain presentation. It can cause tight muscles, stiff joints and restricted movements. Sometimes this pain is harder to describe and localize making it a difficult condition to understand. Nerve pain can be also be described as nerve irritation or nerve inflammation. When specific branch of a nerve is involved, it will often be named after that nerve.

Here are some common examples:

  • Piriformis syndrome – involving the sciatic nerve as it runs through the piriformis muscle
  • Sciatica – pain from the sciatic nerve that may start near the back/buttock and travel down the back of the leg
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – involving the median nerve at the inner wrist

Other terms used to describe nerve issues include:

  • Radiculopathy – a nerve entrapment at the nerve root when it exits from the spinal cord through the spinal joints, sensation changes, weakness, or pain can present anywhere along the path of the nerve 
  • Peripheral neuropathy – usually associated with other health conditions, such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or other neurological conditions, often felt as sensation changes or weakness in the hands or feet 

Symptoms of nerve pain, nerve inflammation and nerve irritation can include:

  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Weakness
  • Heaviness
  • Change in skin sensation
  • Feeling of tight muscles and stretching does NOT help
  • Achiness in a muscle or joint

A scan or imaging is NOT always required for nerve pain. Our physiotherapists will ask you specific questions and can perform specific tests regarding your pain to determine if a scan is required. If so, we will discuss this with you and your GP. Sometimes nerve pain medication prescribed may not make a difference in the pain you are experiencing.

Most nerve pain and nerve irritation can be treated by a musculoskeletal physiotherapist. At Barefoot Physio, we have specific and sensitive tests that will give us the information to guide our treatment. Our treatment is called Neural Tissue Management which involves joint mobilizations to neck or back joints. It can also include muscle treatment along the path of the irritated nerve. This will reduce the sensitivity of the nerves to allow them to be restored to their full gliding movements within the muscles and joints.

With our individualized and specific treatment approach, we can teach you ways to continue to keep your body happy and pain free. We will teach you muscle releases, motor control and exercises to ensure that nerve pain in the future is prevented.

If you or someone you know is experiencing nerve pain, whether it be a day, a week, or years, please contact us. We are open 2 days a week with early and late appointments, along with a couple Saturdays a month to accommodate your schedule. Please call us at 1300 842 850 or click here to book an appointment. All our physiotherapists are trained in nerve pain assessment and treatment.

Hannah’s Squat Blog

The Thoracic Ring Approach as incorporated in the Barefoot Physiotherapy Plan

At Barefoot Physiotherapy we utilise techniques from multiple learnings all combined into our unique Barefoot Physiotherapy Plan. These techniques include; LJ Lee’s training in The Thoracic Ring Approach™all of our Bachelor/Masters degrees, Mulligan, Maitland and Ridgway Methods, Western Acupuncture, Dry Needling, and Pain Science/Graded Motor Imagery. We are continually learning and evolving our Framework and an essential part of it is the Thoracic Ring training we have had.

The Thoracic Ring Approach™ is an innovative assessment and treatment technique for the body (treating through the thorax – which is the middle of the back and ribs) based on a broader understanding of how these areas are designed to function optimally. It fits well within our framework of seeing the body as a whole and in the context of whole body movement and optimal health of the whole person.

What is a Thoracic Ring?

A Thoracic ring is the 2 vertebrae and the ribs attached. For example the T4-5 vertebral segment (including disc) and ribs 5 on left and right.




How do you know if the Thoracic Rings are ‘The Driver’?

With the assessment of multiple rings and treatment techniques for them we can facilitate optimal biomechanics and replicate ideal motor control for the Thorax while hands on. If this facilitation/correction improves movements/meaningful tasks we can know that this is a significant area of the body (and potentially a Driver further through the body). We combine this information with the rest of our Clinical Reasoning in our Barefoot Physiotherapy Plan to determine whether the Rings are a true underlying factor of the clients problem (ie the reason they are seeing a physio!). As the LJ Institute states: “The reason this is essential is that it is common for the thorax to be relatively pain-free but dysfunctional; the dysfunctional thorax creates adverse stresses, loads and forces that can cause pain in any other area of the body.”

Treatment of The Thoracic Rings

When we move well we feel good and we move more. But the catch 22 is that we need to have the body feel good enough to move. Our treatment framework is based on getting the body moving through hands on treatment initially and teaching people how to move well – whatever that is for them! This dynamic view of the body means that an essential component of treatment is training optimal muscle activation patterns and muscle balance around the thoracic rings if they are a Driver. Manual techniques, taping, needling and self-release techniques such as “self stack and breathe” are used to treat Thoracic Rings if we have found them to be Drivers or significant in the clients body. What this does is release non-optimal muscle patterns to create a window of opportunity to train new muscle patterns.




If you are interested in seeing a Barefoot Physio trained in Thoracic Ring Approach please call 1300 842 850 or book online by Clicking Here


Relaxation Techniques