The levator scapulae muscle is often a problem especially for those patients who complain of tightness on the “top of their shoulder”. It attaches to the top of the shoulder blade (scapula) and to the side of the neck.
When this muscle is tight or in pain it can be felt when elevating the arm over head, flexing the neck and side bending the neck to the opposite side.
This muscle can be a cause of a patients shoulder problem because it will negatively impact the positioning of the shoulder blade during arm movements. A tight levator scapula may lead to shoulder bursitis or shoulder impingement.
How to Stretch the Levator Scapulae
To stretch it completely requires moving both attachments away from each other. To do this flex your head down and roll the head to the opposite shoulder. Then lift the, same side, arm up over head. Bend your elbow and apply light pressure onto the head to add more stretch. Make sure you keep your elbow high (not seen in picture).
I don’t often prescribe this stretch any more but some patients still like the ease of using this when they are at work. What I recommend now to my patients is proper stretching of the chest muscles, maintaining correct posture (through taping or regular reminders) and an exercise called the prone thoracic extension that I learned from Evan Osar.