Ask Dr. T: Are My Tight Traps Ruining My Handstand Push Ups?



“Dr. T,

Every time I attempt handstand pushups, my shoulder blade seems to feel like it is on fire. I have been doing CrossFit for over a year and the problem only seems to get worse. I have spent hours with the foam roller and lacrosse ball and it never seems to go away.

Recently, I started to notice that the pain was moving from my shoulder blade and into my traps, creeping into my neck. I think I have a pinched nerve but I have never been diagnosed.

I live a healthy life, eat well, and love being active but this shoulder pain stops me in my tracks and I am worried I am stuck with this forever.”

— Jeff (Santa Barbara)

Thank you, Jeff.

In assessing shoulder pain, the first thing you want to think about is above and below the shoulder joint. It is common to have pain in the shoulder blade even though the impingement is coming from somewhere else (like your traps).

The overhead position in the handstand push up is very difficult. Depending upon a multitude of lifestyle factors, tight traps or lats can lead to a loss in external rotation.

Additionally, any kipping movements will only amplify the pain. Adding power to dysfunctional movement patterns will only make the problem worse.

The traps connect the neck and the shoulder. They are attached to the spine so excess tension is going to recognized as a threat to the spine. Releasing impingements in the traps allows the shoulder to depress taking pressure off the neck and spine and allowing for pain free overhead movement.


Every morning, you owe yourself six minutes of proper breathing and movement repatterning. Practicing proper breathing patterns will eliminate stress from the tissues. Once the tissues have calmed down, these shoulder specific mobility and stability drills will make every movement for the remainder of your day a corrective exercise.

To gain instant access to The Shoulder Fix morning routine, click the link below.

Thanks for reading!


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