The levator scapulae muscle and neck pain

Today I am going to tell you a little story that happened this morning and made me create this article. My neighbor texts me at 7am to ask if I could help him, he woke up stiff and with a lot of pain in his neck. So I told him to come over and after a quick exam it was easy to see that his levator scapula was injured.

The levator scapula is a muscle that primarily elevates the scapula (shoulder blade). Its attachments are the transverse processes from C1 to C4 (first cervical vertebra to fourth cervical vertebra) to the medial border of the scapula, from the superior angle to the root of the spine of the scapula.

As I mentioned before, it elevates the scapula but also extends the neck (at the spinal joints) and laterally flexes the neck (at the spinal joints). This muscle lies below the trapezius muscle in its lower portion and is deep to some muscles of the neck in its upper portion, the splenium of the head, and the sternocleidomastoid.

So going back to my miserable neighbor and his neck pain, I asked him what happened and he said “oh, I think it’s my pillow.” I know you do a lot of desk work so your neck gets really tight and maybe too high a pillow could make the situation worse. Pain shot from her upper neck to her shoulder.

He couldn’t turn his head to the side and it was difficult to look down and up. It’s no wonder why, those are all the actions that the levator scapulae performs. But why does it happen?

Computer work is usually the reason. Sitting at a desk all day we get tired and after repeating the same thing over and over again, day after day, week after week, your muscles will eventually get used to that posture and you start to lose mechanical functionality. The muscles of the front of the neck (scalenes) and of the upper part of the neck (suboccipitals) are shortened, the pectoral muscles (chest), biceps, deltoid (shoulder), subscapularis and serratus anterior (under the arm and around). ribs) tighten.

You probably get dehydrated in the office and that only makes the situation worse. So there are no stretching, bad technique when exercising, unstable shoulders, etc, etc, etc … Over time the body gives up, one muscle fails, the rest of the muscles in that area will have to compensate. If the levator scapulae receives an intense pull, the compensatory muscles try to protect it and experience a strong spasm, then there it is, injury, pain, stiffness, frustration, painkillers, etc.

Some of the things you should know when it happens.

1st: If coughing or sneezing hurts, you may have pulled a rib or vertebra out of its place. You need to see an osteopath.

2nd: If there is only restriction in the range of motion and a lot of pain, it will take a long time to heal and you should avoid heavy exercises.


Fourth: follow with stretches – this is great: sitting in a chair, the hand on the injured side goes behind the back, shoulder down, and the head should go to the opposite shoulder.

5th: if there is stiffness in the morning, there may be a little swelling in the joint, ice for 20 min, 5 min on, 5 min off. At night you can use a little heat to relax the muscles and bring blood to the area to heal the tissues.

6th: If your pillow is too high, try to get one that is low, like the unreliable ones for children. You can also try sleeping without a pillow for a couple of nights.

7th: Meditation can also be good for people who cannot relax when they go to bed. Meditating when you go to bed and when you wake up can help you let go of the emotions that are keeping your body tense.

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