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Where Are the Levator Scapulae Muscles?

Levator Scapulae Stretch

A common area requiring Remedial Massage treatment at Entegra Health Parkville, is the Levator Scapulae muscles. The Levator Scapulae muscles are located behind and to the side of the neck, adjacent to the Scalene muscles, and deep to the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and Upper Trapezius muscles. The Levator Scapulae muscles originate at cervical spine vertebrae 1-4 (C1-4), and attach superiorly at the top of the scapulae; also known as the ‘Spine of Scapula’.

What is their function?

The name ‘Levator Scapulae’ is derived from Latin meaning to ‘lift the Scapula’ and is primarily  involved in actions requiring lifting and rotation of the scapula/shoulder. The Levator Scapulae also works in conjunction with the Pectoral and Rhomboid muscles to support these actions.

Collectively, the Levator Scapulae functions in association with the SCM, Scalene, Upper Trapezius and Splenius Capitis muscles located around and behind the neck and skull, to support extension, flexion and turning movements of the neck; elevation of the ribs during respiration, and extension and rotation movements of the arms and shoulders/scapula.

What tension related problems can occur here?

Tension commonly associated with the Levator Scapula and neighbouring muscles of the Upper Thoracic region, including: the Scalene, SCM and Upper Trapezius neck muscles can contribute to tension headaches and migraines, due to the attachment site of the Upper Trapezius muscles located at the base of the skull; the Levator Scapulae and Scalene muscle attachments at the cervical spine (vertebrae of the neck).

Specifically, Cervicogenic headaches resulting from tension in the SCM and Levator Scapula muscles may also occur. In addition, Levator Scapula Syndrome is a condition involving irritation and inflammation of the tissues surrounding the scapula and shoulder region. The cause of this condition is often through repetitive or over-use actions.

Tension within the surrounding muscles of the spinous processes of the neck can also contribute to nerve related conditions, including Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). Common symptoms that may be attributed to TOS can include: tingling and/or numbness in the hands or fingers, reduced range of movement and/or frozen shoulder conditions, due to nerve impingement by surrounding shoulder structures. These conditions may also reduce circulation within the arms, hands and fingers.

Tension commonly associated with nearby SCM muscles may also be experienced in association with the Tempero Mandibular Jaw (TMJ) muscles, both internal and external, and muscles attached to the base of the skull (Occipital band).

How Can I Reduce Muscular Tension in This Area?

At Entegra Health Parkville, tension related to the Levator Scapula muscles are often observed to be the result of over extension, or overuse of these muscles in a lowered, or forward head position. Tension in these areas may also be associated with weak muscles. Common upper thoracic postural compensation patterns are often related to a desk based position or, most sitting positions for prolonged periods.

The following self management options are recommended to effectively reduce muscular tension and increase stability between Remedial Massage treatments:

Stretches | Levator Scapulae Stretch

Stretches to lengthen the back and sides of the neck, and between the shoulder blades can greatly assist in the reduction of tension in the Levator Scapulae and surrounding muscles. For example, ear to shoulder stretches, shoulder roll stretches, and stretches to release the SCM and nearby neck muscles. Regular Remedial Massage is also an effective way to support muscular tension and stress levels, where possible. Foam rolling of the upper thoracic area may also significantly reduce tension and therefore provide muscular relief.

Strengthening | Levator Scapulae Stretch

Strengthening of the rhomboid muscles may also prevent fatigue and over-stretching of the upper thoracic/back area and consequently support the muscles surrounding the neck, including the Levator Scapulae. Stretches to reduce tension in the Pectoral muscles in the front of the chest may also reduce tension in the upper back and neck.


For further information regarding Remedial Massage, or treatment options, please contact us via email. Access to free online resources including stretch and exercise video resources can be found on our website.

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Levator Scapulae Stretch
Remedial Massage Melbourne