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Shoulder Anatomy: Levator Scapula

Jul 31, 2020


MUSCLE OF THE DAY: “Levator Scapula”

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The levator scapulae is a long muscle that is a functional part of the shoulder (pectoral) girdle with the trapezius, rhomboids, serratus anterior and pectoralis minor. Skeletally, the clavicles, scapulae and the manubrium of the sternum comprise the bone ring of the girdle. The upper part of the levator scapulae muscle lies under the splenius capitis and sternocleidomastoideus muscles and the lower part under the trapezius. The middle portion, however, is superficial and can be palpated in the lateral cervical region (side of the neck). Levare, in latin, means “to raise or lift up”, hence the name levator scapulae. Can you guess the function yet?


Origin(s) (proximal attachment): Transverse process of the atlas (C1) and axis (C2), posterior tubercles of C3 and C4.

Insertion(s) (distal attachment): Posterior surface of the medial scapular border, from the superior angle to the root of the spine.

Action(s): Scapulothoracic joint: Elevation of the scapula.

Common Injuries to Levator Scapulae:

Levator Scapulae Syndrome (LSS) is a real pain in the neck… It is one of the most reported muscle injuries by the general population. Common symptoms include pain or tightness in the upper back, impaired neck mobility, neck pain, headaches, trigger point development (10/10 pain!) and sometimes an elevated shoulder, where one will rest higher than the other. Common causes include extended periods of desk work with poor posture (forward head lean), emotional/mental stress, carrying a heavy shoulder strapped bag, talking on the phone, sleeping on your stomach with head turned and cervical spine dysfunction. Electrical stimulation, massage, stretching and postural adjustments have all shown to help relieve and prevent future levator scapulae pain. The levator scapulae is also implicated in Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS) where the muscles in the neck, shoulder and chest become deformed as a result of poor posture. The most affected muscles are the levator scapulae and upper trapezius which become extremely strained and overactive in trying to compensate for a forward leaning neck posture, while the pectoralis minor and major become extremely tight and shortened. A combination of chiropractic care, physical therapy and exercise is typically recommended as a rehabilitation protocol. If dealing with LSS or UCS, or more importantly, looking to PREVENT LSS or UCS, THE Prehab Guys will teach you how to be your own physical therapist. Check out their Neck and Mid-Back


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