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March 7, 2023
Author: Shelby
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  • Star Exercise of the Week: Levator Scapulae Stretch

We’ve previously discussed how certain muscles have attachment points at the shoulders and the neck. 

As a result, it’s not uncommon to experience some neck pain or discomfort when your shoulder has been bothering you, and vice versa.

The levator scapulae is no exception to this.

This muscle connects to the neck via the transverse processes of the C1-C4 vertebrae. It then travels to insert onto the inner, or medial, border of the shoulder blade, or scapula.

The levator scapulae is responsible for helping to extend the neck, or bend the neck backwards, and bend the head to the side. When side-bending via the levator scapulae, the head will bend towards the same side as the contracting muscle.

This muscle also helps to pull the shoulder blade upward and inward.

The stretch for this muscle is super simple and a great one to do, as this muscle is commonly associated with neck tension.

Here’s how to do it!

Step 1: Starting Position:

  • Position yourself in standing or sitting with an upright posture.
  • Take one hand and wrap it up and over the head. 
  • If you intend to stretch the LEFT side of the neck, use your RIGHT hand. If you intend to stretch the RIGHT side of the neck, use your LEFT hand.


Step 2: Pull to the Side:

  • Pull the head directly to the side. You’ll pull towards the same side as the arm that is moving the head.
  • Make sure the shoulders are relaxed and not hiked up towards the ears.


Step 3: Turn and Rotate Down Towards the Floor:

  • Once at your end range in side-bending, turn and rotate the head towards the same side as the pulling arm, looking down in the direction of the floor.
  • You should feel a more isolated stretch in between the back and side of the neck on the side being stretched.
  • Hold at least 30 seconds, then slowly return to your starting position.
  • Repeat twice. Practice on both sides.

Here’s a video demonstration for further clarification on how to do this stretch from start to finish:

That’s all there is to it!

Super simple and easy to do any time of day. 

So, the next time you’re experiencing tension in the neck and suspect it could be the levator scapulae, try this stretch and discover the relief you’ve been searching for!

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About the Author Shelby

Shelby Green is a Florida-licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), currently practicing at St. Anthony’s Resource Center Outpatient Rehabilitation in St. Petersburg, FL. Shelby received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of South Florida, followed by her DPT from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Shelby has 6 years clinical experience practicing in both the acute care and outpatient rehab settings. Specialties include orthopedics, with additional training in specific manual therapy techniques for pain management, as well as extensive training as a Certified Lymphedema Therapist.

Shelby is a Tampa, FL native, which is where she and her husband currently reside. Their favorite activities include spending time with family and anything outdoors, such as walking, bike riding, and going to the beach.

Medical Disclaimer

This website is intended to provide educational information only and should not be taken as medical advice. The information shared on this website is based on research, but is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. We recommend that you consult your healthcare provider for any specific questions or concerns you may have. The website does not accept responsibility for any harm that may occur from using the information given on this site. Speak to your medical provider about any health issues!

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