Levator Scapula

“It hurts to turn my head.”

Oftentimes, this neck pain is due to the Levator Scapula. As the name implies, the muscle elevates the scapula and when the scapula is stabilized, it turns the neck to the same side. 


This muscle can be aggravated by many things . . .

  • The muscle counteracts weight on the shoulders. So, if you have a heavy purse, backpack, workbag, the Levator Scapula helps to bear that load.

  • Anything that requires you to turn your neck to the side for long periods of time, for instance, typing with head turned to look at work that is placed to the side, laterally flexing your neck to speak on the phone, turning your neck to see a movie or play . . ..

  • Similarly, falling asleep on a car trip with your head in a tilted position, places demand on the muscle.

  • Feeling overwhelmed leads some people to elevate their shoulders which then causes the muscle to be shortened for a prolonged amount of time.

  • Even sitting in an ill-fitted chair or using an ill-fitted cane or crutches, can cause the shoulders to be elevated and lead to pain from fatigue.

  • Upper Crossed Syndrome

There can also be lower body imbalances that cause the Levator Scapula to over-engage in order to preserve momentum in walking. This can be caused by lowered arches, imbalances in the lower body muscles (lower crossed syndrome) and calf weakness. The Levator Scapula has a twisted structure which might make it even more sensitive to lower body imbalances.

The Levator Scapula is a stubborn and sensitive muscle. When it becomes aggravated, one massage session may help take the edge off but may not fully resolve the issue if other lifestyle changes don’t coincide. So at home, don’t do the following for prolonged periods of time . . .

. . . turning or laterally tilting your neck.
. . . elevating your shoulders while sitting, standing or stressing.
. . . sleeping while neck is laterally tilting.

You can also do some stretches or use a theracane on the muscle at home. There is an affiliate link for a theracane.:

DSC_0123 (1).jpg

This joint effort over time is necessary to retrain the nervous system in normal muscle behavior.

Let us know if this was helpful or if you have questions in the comment section.