Levator Scapulae Muscle

Levator Scapulae

Action: Unilaterally

– Elevates the scapula

– Downwardly roatates the scapula

– rotates the head and neck simultaneously


– Extend the head and neck

Origin: C1 – C4 Transverse Processes

Insertion: Medial Border of scapula

Nerve: cervical nerve (C3-C4) and dorsal scapular nerve (C5)

The levator scapulae muscle is a key player in the complex network of muscles that support the neck and shoulder region. Originating from the upper cervical vertebrae (C1-C4), it extends down diagonally to attach onto the superior angle of the scapula (shoulder blade).

As its name suggests, the primary action of the levator scapulae is to elevate the scapula, or shoulder blade. This muscle is often involved in movements such as shrugging the shoulders or tilting the head to the side. Additionally, it assists in lateral flexion and rotation of the neck.

Despite its importance in providing stability and mobility to the neck and shoulders, the levator scapulae is prone to tightness and overuse, often leading to symptoms like neck pain, stiffness, and restricted range of motion.

In the clinic we often see people come in with a stiffness feeling in the angle of the neck and down to the attachment with head turning and side bending. This usually a tell tale sign that the levator scapulae is involved.

Stretching, strengthening and self treatment exercises targeting this muscle are commonly prescribed to alleviate discomfort and improve overall function in the neck and shoulder region.


  • To stretch the left side, sit up tall, turn your head to the right. Anchor your left hand by sitting on it or let it hang.
  • With your right hand on the back of your head, pull your head forward and down on the angle so your nose is close to your armpit.
  • Hold for 15-20secs and repeat on the opposite side to stretch the right side.

You want to feel the stretch but it shouldn’t be painful.


Self Treatment

Equipment needed: long towel folded up to about 10cm wide and massage ball.

  • Take the folded up towel and put one end on the seat with the rest of it draping over the back of the seat.
  • Sit on the towel on the chair to anchor it.
  • Reach back and bring the towel over your shoulder to the front of you.
  • Place the ball on your upper trap and under the towel.
  • Using your hand on the opposite side the ball is, pull down on the towel to create some pressure with the ball.
  • You can either hold the ball in one spot and not move or add in a head movement to move the muscle.
  • Hold for 15-20secs, you should feel the discomfort lessen, then move the ball onto the next tender spot. Repeat on the opposite side.




  • Stand on the middle of a resistance band with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold one end of the resistance band in each hand, allowing the band to hang down by your sides.


  • Hold onto the resistance band with a neutral grip, palms facing your body.


  • Keep your back straight, chest up, and shoulders relaxed.
  • Position your hands so that they’re directly below your shoulders, with the resistance band taut but not stretched.

Shrug Movement:

  • Lift your shoulders straight upward toward your ears in a controlled motion.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement to maximize contraction.

Hold and Squeeze:

  • Hold the top position of the shrug for a brief moment, focusing on contracting your trapezius muscles.

Lowering Phase:

  • Slowly lower your shoulders back down to the starting position, maintaining tension on the resistance band throughout the movement.
  • Avoid letting the band snap back down; control the descent to keep tension on your muscles.


  • Inhale as you lower your shoulders back down.
  • Exhale as you lift your shoulders up into the shrug position.

Before using any of these techniques, it’s safest to consult your local Myotherapist to see if they are suitable for your situation.