3-Minute Muscles: Levator Scapulae

Jul 13 · 1 min read

Have you ever had an ache in your neck or shoulder, reached up to rub that area, and felt a bulky, crunchy “knot”? You maybe even had a massage therapist go to town on that area, heard the crunching of the “knot” in your ear for the entire session, only to still feel that “knot” days later?

Well, that “knot” isn’t exactly a “knot.” It is the twisted portion of your Levator Scapulae that is protruding out because all your other postural muscles are disproportionately tight. It often gets confused with scar tissue or adhesions in the tissue by inexperienced therapists but never seems to go away.

The levator muscle runs from the very top of your spine (C1-4) to your scapula or shoulder blade. Its job is to tilt your head sideways and assist in neck rotation, and also help move your scapula. When it gets tight or sore, you’re going to feel this one in the back of your neck, around the top, inside corner of your scapula, and sometimes down the inside edge of your scapula, sometimes resulting in a “knot” feeling at the very bottom corner of the shoulder blade. (This knot is more of a sore spot, or trigger point referral, instead of a palpable crunchy chunk of misbehaving muscle tissue).

If you are prone to forward head posture, shoulders-in-your-ears-syndrome, or if you wake up with a painful, stiff neck (the I-slept-wrong-syndrome), then this muscle may be angry.


Need to make your levator scapulae feel better? Here is a simple way to stretch it:

First, you're going to look down and to the side.

Let's say you're going to stretch your right levator. You're going to look down and off to the left, like in the picture below.

Raise your right arm, resting your hand on the top of your shoulder. This part isn't required, but it rotates your scapula to give the distal (far) end of that muscle a good stretch, too.

Using your left hand, you can gently pull your head down and to the left to assist the stretch. This also isn't necessary, but it helps get that muscle into a deeper stretch, as well.

photo by my reluctant husband, Dan.

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