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Muscle of the Month: Levator Scapulae

The muscle of this month is the lovely little Levator Scapulae. If you sit at a desk, look down at your phone, or simply live the life of a modern-day human, you may have experienced some pain in this region of your neck time to time.

levator scapulae

Let's go over the anatomy of this muscle, recognize pain patterns and symptoms, and look at stretches and exercises to help reduce pain and prevent irritation.

But first, the Nitty Gritty:

Pronounced: leh-va-tor skap-u-la

ACTIONS: elevate the scapula, downwardly rotate the scapula, laterally flex the head and neck, rotate the head and neck to the same side, and Bilaterally it extends the head and neck.

ORIGIN: transverse processes of first through fourth cervical vertebrae.

INSERTION: medial border of scapula, between superior angle and superior portion of spine of scapula.

NERVES: cervical 3, 4, and dorsal scapular C4 and 5.

It is deep to the trapezius, superficial on side of neck

In short: Lift your shoulder blades

It originates from the top 4 cervical vertebrae, and inserts on the top-most point of the scapula, at the medial-superior corner. It is a thin, flat muscle located just below the upper part of the trapezius.

Causes of Tightness

The levator scapulae is shortened by bad posture, by raising the shoulder or the shoulder girdle.

Additional causes:

* poor sleeping posture

* arm rests on chairs or in vehicles that are too high

* emotional tension

* overexercise

* whiplash from an accident

* since the levator scapulae raises the shoulder girdle, it also works statically in times of stress since the shoulders are often raised in response to tension.

* forward head posture while reading, working at desks
* holding a phone between the cheek and the shoulder
Symptoms of Tightness or Pain Patterns: Pain at the angle of the neck and upper back, as well as the midscapular region. You may experience limited range of motion to the affected side. (Think: when your neck hurts while trying to look behind your shoulder while backing out of your car parking may have levator scapulae trigger point.) Your breathing may also feel constrained.
Additional symptoms:

• Difficulty rotating the head

• Difficulty placing the chin on the chest

• Headache at the back of the head

• Kink, pain and/or inflammation in the neck