Levator Scapula – Part 2 of the grumbly muscle series…
What does it do?
It does what it says on the tin…
- It elevates the scapula (shoulder blade).
- Downwardly rotates the scapula in the scapulothoracic joint.
- Helps you side flex your head (ear to shoulder) AND allows you to rotate your head to the same side.
The muscles originate from the transverse processes if C2, C2, C3 & C4 (the upper part of the C-Spine). It then inserts onto the medial border of the scapula around the superior angle (the top inside bit).
Why does it hurt?
Bear in mind that the scapula is an extremely movable bone, held in place predominantly by muscles.
A forward head position (many of us have this) makes these muscles contract to try and counteract the action. If left unchecked, the muscles become tight or taught in order to jeep the neck extended, and this could lead to chronic headaches. Think of it like standing on a surfboard on water and trying to pick to the sail with its rope…not easy is it?
What I also see during assessments, is that if there is a range of movement deficit in the shoulder (glenohumeral joint), the levator scapula will sometimes cheat and hike the shoulder upwards to achieve the range of motion, adding to its stress and discomfort.
How can we stop it hurting?
Well, working on posture and any pre-existing muscle neck or shoulder dysfunction is a start but that doesn’t provide immediate pain relief.
In the meantime, we can help ourselves: Soft tissue release that you can do yourself by using a tennis ball (on a rope is helpful) to pinpoint the site of pain, rotating your head to the opposite side, gently pulling your head forward with your opposite hand and dropping your chin forward towards the other knee– you’re putting the muscle on a stretch, hold for 10-20 seconds.
In the clinic I find good results when I use deep tissue massage and myofascial cups over the area and educating my clients as to what will make the muscle sore and how stretch it off when it aches.