Levator Scapulae Trigger Points

Muscles like the levator scapulae that are involved in static postures like sitting or standing are often really vulnerable to problems – in particular getting trigger points.

They are usually not forceful nor powerful muscles but are designed to have ‘staying power’.

So when you are ‘just’ sitting  – all the posture muscles are working away holding and balancing the complex structures of your body.

The levator scapulae muscle is vital in balancing the neck and shoulder blades during sitting or standing.

Its Latin name means ‘lifter of the shoulder blade.” It is strung between two mobile structures – the neck and shoulder blade and this makes it particularly vulnerable. Its structure is complex with a fancy 180-degree twist in the middle. When it plays up, you feel an ache where the neck joins the shoulder and your neck feels stiff- especially when you turn your head.

It is ‘switched on’ by stress, by holding a phone to your ear with your shoulder, or sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a plane. Poor posture with your chin jutting forward and a slumped upper body will stress this muscle and turn on triggers.

Levator Scapulae Trigger Points

Levator Scapulae Trigger Points and Pain Referral Pattern

The levator scapulae muscle houses one of the more common trigger points in the body. If you just look around, especially in a busy office or on the street in a city, you would often see someone with a pained look on their face and a hand holding the area where the neck joins the shoulder.

It is usually a dragging aching pain and just makes you grumpy. This common pain can be prevented by avoiding the obvious causes which I noted above. It can be switched off by appropriate pressure and stretches.  Sometimes acupuncture or injections are needed.

So be aware that the levator scapulae muscle may be malfunctioning if you have an ache at the base of your neck and upper thoracic spine & sort it out.

If you want to find out more about treating trigger points, we have a resource for you. Here’s where to get a free information pack and join a free email course on trigger point releases and pain relief techniques.

Dave Minor September 20, 2009

This is very good info, I like this very much. I had a problem in the left Scapulae as i was reading this and totally forgot about doing the stretches, so Idid them just before writing this and I feel a lot better. We so offten get caught up in reading more into the problem than we should , that we forget the simple things to do to relieve ourselves of some of these naging little bugs.

Maria Sada August 16, 2010

You’re web site is very interesting, I’m in the process of studying it, but I’m a painter and I have serious pain in my neck and shoulder blades that prevents me from working and my life at present is: sitting on a sofa, laying back. I’ve had a pain blockage using radio frequency, done by a neurosurgeon…the pain went away …and returned in 2 months. I don’t know what to do. The neurosurgeon sent me to a chiropractic, and I’m trying that now. Do you, by chance, know of someone in Mexico who can help me with your technique?
Your insight and comments will be greatly appreciated.
Maria Sada, Mexico City

    Jonathan September 14, 2010

    Hi Maria

    Unfortunately I do not know any medical practitioners in Mexico. Did you have medial branch blocks performed prior to the radiofrequency neurotomy by the neurosurgeon? these are the diagnostic tests that will tear you firstly which level is affected and secondly whether they neurotomy will actually work.



marlene calai November 10, 2010

Hi Jonathan, A couple days ago my jaw locked up on left side and with pain to bad to chew or turn my head. Its still difficult to swallow but feeling better everyday. It could be some cold in the joint also but I know there is a jaw problem. Thank you. I did see your video on excercises for the jaw or tmj. Shalom , Marlene

Nona December 9, 2010

Hi Jonathan, Thankyou for all your helpful info. I recently had an MRI after ten months of severe facial pain, visits to dentists, osteopaths and acupuncture treatment. The MRI showed that in the fourth vertabrae the opening has a build up and is pressing on the nerve. I am being sent to a specialist for a pain block. Is this my only alternative? I also have many tender and painful spots from the back of my head and down into my shoulders. I would appreciate some advice on this condition.
Regards Nona

wayne smith November 19, 2011

fell down some stairs now my shoulder and arm are giving me pain at times

Paul Smith January 9, 2012

I’ve been suffering from a chronically tight lev scalp on my right side for about 6 months now. Brought about I believe cycling. Lack of stretching afterwards and poor medical guidance. I ache round the base of the neck and frequently down into upper thoracic spine. It gets worse with exercise and even a simple thing like washing the car I end up with a stiff neck. So I found this article and your others on dry needling interesting. I can release the muscle with some self massage and some vigorous stretching but this leaves me aching for up to and beyond 48 hours. Sport massage and trigger point pressure only give temporary relief. I’m now void of the physical activity I love and desperately need a solution. I’m currently awaiting my first acupuncture session however after reading your site I am hopeful of at least some results from the first session. I have also been diagnosed as vitamin d deficient with levels of 20, hear in the UK I’m not sure what the unit of measurement is but I’m told 47 is considered normal. I am still curious as to how parts of the muscle are reached due to I believe part of it sitting under the trapezius muscle. Excellent site, given me hope 🙂

Hajira January 16, 2012

Hi there,
I am a medical doctor (anaesthetist) and have been practicing Energy Medicine since the early nineties. I suggest you use the Trigger points. I recently purchased the Quantum Touch Course online and would strongly recommend it. If you see the research done by Prof. Bruce Lipton on “Mind over Genes”, he explains how all health problems are discordant energy waves and by running energy into the affected area, resonance is achieved and hence, healing. Quantum Touch teaches a most effective method on how to run energy and is very well presented. Trigger points are like circuit breakers and just block the flow of energy in the body…I don’t know if that’s true as I haven’t yet read all the info on what they are, etc. I have just bought the course and looking at what everyone is saying. However, as an “Energy Physician”, my experience of trigger point therapy is that it is awesome in releasing pain and establishing the flow of energy. Thank you, Jonathan, for so much that you give. I also like to empower my patients by teaching them energy release techniques, so they may help themselves. What you teach is what people need to know. They wont learn it from their doctors because we are not taught such powerful healing techniques.

Glenda March 1, 2012

I have been having severe pain on my left levator scapulae for years. I have noticed that stress is a major factor. I know that me being left handed also is a reason for te left side hurting and holding the phone with the shoulder obviously doesn’t help so I try not to do it. To help alleviate the pain I get massages often which is only a temporary solution. What type of injections can I get to help the pain remain at bay longer? How does acupuncture help relieve the trigger point? And last, could a woman having large breast not help the situation?

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