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Trigger Point Therapy - Treating Levator Scapulae

Posted by Judith Winer on

Levator Scapulae Trigger Points

Levator Scapulae - Common Trigger Point Sites


Almost all neck pain will have myofascial trigger point contributions, and levator scapulae is commonly involved.

Levator scapulae is deep to sternocleidomastoideus and trapezius. It is named after its action of elevating the scapula.

The levator scapulae acts eccentrically to decelerate the downward forces created by the lower fibers of the trapezius and serratus anterior. The levator scapulae decelerates contralateral side flexion in the cervical spine.

Almost all neck pain will have myofascial trigger point contributions, and this muscle is commonly involved. Pain will be experienced at the angle of the neck from the superior angle, making its way down to the medial aspect of the inferior angle, with spillover all the way along the medial border of the scapula. Patients often report a stiff neck and reduced range of motion.


Posterior tubercles of transverse processes of first three or four cervical vertebrae (C1–4).


Medial (vertebral) border of scapula, between superior angle and spine of scapula.


Trapezius, rhomboids, splenius cervicis, erector spinae, scalenes, SCM.


Elevates scapula. Helps retract scapula. Helps bend neck laterally.


Dorsal scapular nerve C4, 5, and cervical nerves C3, 4.

Basic Functional Movement

Example: carrying a heavy bag.

Sports that heavily utilize this muscle

Examples: shot put, weightlifting.


Levator Scapulae - Common Trigger Point Sites and Pain Patterns


Levator Scapulae - Typical Referred Pain Patterns


Trigger Point Referred Pain Patterns

Triangular pattern from top of scapula to nape of neck. Slight overspill to medial border of scapula and posterior glenohumeral joint.


Stiff and painful neck with limited rotation of cervical spine, long-term use of walking stick, neck pain and stiffness, problems turning neck (e.g. driving).


RTA, holding telephone ear to shoulder, side sleeping with wrong pillows, backpacks, poor posture, sustained habits or occupation, TV/monitor position, stress and tension, cold/flu or cold sores, sports (swimming front crawl).

Differential Diagnosis

Scapulothoracic joint dysfunction; winging of scapula. Apophysitis and capsular-ligamentous apparatus. Shoulder impingement syndromes.

Trigger Point Treatment Techniques


Spray and Stretch YES
Deep Stroking Massage YES
Compression YES
Muscle Energy Techniques YES
Positional Release YES
Dry Needling YES
Wet Needling YES


Self help

Self-massage techniques can be very helpful; especially balls and pressure tools.

General advice to patients

Hold telephone shoulder to ear. Stress. Occupation. Air conditioning. Passive stretching. Heat and warmth. Scarf in cold weather. Change walking stick position.


Find a Trigger Point Professional in your area

Recent Blogs and Articles 

Taping for Levator Scapulae Trigger Points

About NAT Certification

NAT 5-Step Shoulder Technique


This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. 









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