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Levator Scapulae Pain

by
author image Mary Garrett
Mary Garrett is a certified health education specialist and American Council on Exercise-certified lifestyle/weight management coach. She holds a Bachelor of Science in health promotion from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and is completing a Master of Arts in counseling at Saint Martin's University.
Levator Scapulae Pain
Man in bed with neck pain Photo Credit AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

One of the most common complaints of general muscle pain is the neck, particularly involving the levator scapulae muscle. This muscle is responsible for movements such as shoulder shrugs. Without treatment, neck pain can cause sleepless nights and irritable days, and it can even be associated with depression and anxiety.

Levator Scapulae Location

The levator scapulae muscles are located on either side of the neck. They originate on the four upper vertebrae of the cervical spine (neck) and insert, or attach, to the scapula, also known as the shoulder blade. This is an active muscle that plays a role in lifting the shoulders, rotating the shoulder girdle and many arm movements; therefore, limited movements can affect other areas of the upper body.

What Causes Neck Pain?

Levator Scapulae Pain
Stress related to certain tasks can cause neck pain. Photo Credit Stress im Büro image by Yvonne Bogdanski from Fotolia.com

As with any symptom involving pain, visit the doctor for a full analysis and physical examination of your particular problem. In some cases, an X-ray or other imaging procedure might be needed to properly diagnose your neck pain. The cause could be an injury to simple daily strain. Strain is an increased tightness and tension in a muscle from contraction of the muscles over a long period of time. Without treatment, it can cause limited range of motion for the neck, shoulders and arms and is often the cause of tension headaches. Accompanying medical problems can include depression, anxiety and general fatigue. Some shoulder pain arises from holding a phone to your ear; for tiny cell phones, this can be especially difficult, causing more pain and stiffness. For women, carrying bags with straps over the shoulder is another common cause of levator pain.

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Neck Pain Treatment

For simple muscle strain, massage, ice, yoga, stretches, posture correction and exercise can help. Self-care for neck pain can also include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or pain medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen. Chiropractic care is also an option for those interested in non-allopathic intervention. Some chiropractors might suggest treatment with a mild electric frequency or ultrasound procedure that has shown to relax the muscles.

Sit Up Straight

Levator Scapulae Pain
Don't slouch. Photo Credit young woman watching image by Ramona smiers from Fotolia.com

Like your mother always said, sit up straight. Posture is key to a healthy neck and spine. With untold hours spent at a desk or computer, many Americans have poor posture. To correctly align the neck and spine, make sure your ears are directly over your shoulders, your shoulders are back and your pelvis is in neutral position. This can be found by standing with your feet about hip width apart and tilting your hips all the way forward then all the way back; the point between the two is your neutral posture. At the office, take many small breaks to walk around and stretch; every 30 to 45 minutes is ideal.

Helpful Exercises

Levator Scapulae Pain
Get moving. Photo Credit fitness weights image by William Berry from Fotolia.com

Exercise helps alleviate many posture and strain issues. Shoulder shrugs with hand weights or resistance bands are a great way to strengthen the levator scapulae muscles.

Shoulder shrugs: Keeping your arms by your side, rotate the shoulders in a wide circular motion 10 to 15 times in each direction. Make sure to stretch after you exercise. The best way to stretch the levator scapulae is to tilt the head at a 45-degree angle while simultaneously lowering the opposing shoulder. Repeat both sides, and hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.

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