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Muscle pain of the month : Levator scapulea

The Levator scap is a favorite muscle of mine because it is literally a problem for almost every single client I have ever worked on. Here's a little break down on this bad boy muscle.

The levator scapulae muscle is frequently involved when the neck becomes stiff or tight from certain muscle strains. The muscle runs down either side of the neck, attaches to the shoulder blade and the dominant shoulder most commonly becames affected. Individuals may complain of pain that radiates to the neck and shoulder, but rarely to the arm.


The word 'levator' comes from the Latin 'levare', meaning "to raise"  and scapulae refer to the scapulas, or shoulder blades, possibly originating from the Greek "skaptein," meaning "to dig"


The levator scapulae's main pain zones are the sides of the neck and the upper shoulders. This muscle can cause discomfort in the shoulder blade and inner boundary of the shoulder blade. It can also contribute to deep, aching sensations and tightness felt in the neck, over the top of the shoulders, or between the shoulder blades. Patients may also experience painful neck and impaired movement whilst rotating their head or lifting the neck from a supine position.


Levator scap issues can also be heavily tied to stress responses, for this reason clients who have had particularly stressful lives, are undergoing chronic stress or are experiencing a new level of stress tend to have more issues around this muscle and have very active trigger points.


The following list covers some of the levator scapulae pain causes

  • Working at a computer with the head turned

  • Emotional/mental stress

  • Carrying heavy bags with a shoulder strap

  • Chilling of the muscle during sleep from a ceiling fan or air conditioner

  • Holding a phone between the shoulder and ear for too long

  • Sleeping on your stomach with your head turned

  • Head forward posture

  • Cervical spine dysfunction.

  • Repetitive arm motions such as in swimming, throwing, or racquet sports.


If you have levator scapulae issues you may also experience any or all of these issues. Deep, achy pain and/or tightness on the upper back along the top of the shoulder blade or neck.

  • Painful neck and impaired movement: It can be painful to turn the head fully or lift the neck when you’re in a lying position. Some people have to support their neck with their hands when they attempt to get up.

  • Neck pain, which may extend to the head causing a headache.

  • Shoulder blade pain and pain between shoulder blades

An elevated shoulder: Usually one shoulder blade is held a little higher than the other, which can be seen from the back.

Trigger points for levator scap are usually found here but the pain can radiate anywhere around this area (as is demonstrated by the green dots in the above photo).


Having a levator scapulae massage is said to be one of the best ways to relax this muscle and the surrounding area.


If you haven't already booked now would be a good time to do so!


In the meantime here are some things that might help.


Shoulder shrugs

Keeping your arms by your side, rotate the shoulders in a wide circular motion 10 to 15 times in each direction. Make sure to stretch after you exercise. The best way to stretch the levator scapulae is to tilt the head at a 45-degree angle while simultaneously lowering the opposing shoulder. Repeat both sides, and hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.

Sit Up Straight

Like your mother always said, sit up straight. Posture is key to a healthy neck and spine. With untold hours spent at a desk or computer, many Americans have poor posture. To correctly align the neck and spine, make sure your ears are directly over your shoulders, your shoulders are back and your pelvis is in neutral position. This can be found by standing with your feet about hip width apart and tilting your hips all the way forward then all the way back; the point between the two is your neutral posture. At the office, take many small breaks to walk around and stretch; every 30 to 45 minutes is ideal.


Last but not least. Put on a heading pack and rest.


See you soon!!

Love and light.  


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