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Quick Levator Scapulae Pain Relief With These 8 Stretches

levator scapulae pain


Got neck pain? 

We’ve all been there. And if your neck is a pain in your…well…neck, then it could be because of your levator scapulae muscle. 

These little guys lie deep in the neck, and though they’re fairly small muscles, they can cause a world of pain when agitated. 

If you’re experiencing: 

- Difficulty bending your neck to the side 

- Trouble rotating your neck 

- Deep aching pain and tightness in your neck

- Headaches 

- Or EVEN achy shoulder blades…

…then levator scapulae pain could be at play. 

But no worries. Back and muscle pain is our specialty, so let us stick our neck out for ya. 

Today, we’ll cover: 

- How to Treat/Relieve Levator Scapulae Pain: 8 Stretches

- Levator Scapulae Massage  

- Levator Scapulae Anatomy & Function 

- How to Know if You Have Levator Scapulae Pain

- Levator Scapulae Pain Causes 

- Dropped Shoulder Syndrome

- Resources on Neck & Back Pain

Let’s go for it. 

How to Treat/Relieve Levator Scapulae Pain: 8 Stretches 

levator scapulae stretch


If you’re in any amount of neck pain at the moment, then you know how FAST you want quick results from that neck pain. 

So, let’s not waste your time. 

Here are 8 stretches and exercises you can try TODAY–right now–to help get relief from your levator scapulae pain. 

Levator Scapulae Pain Relief Stretch #1: The Head Turn 

1) First, identify which side of your neck feels painful. Let’s say it’s your left side. 

2) Then, turn your head to the opposite side of whichever side you have pain–so in this case to the right side. Go as far as you can without too much pain. 

3) Now, lift up your right arm, placing your hand on top of your head. 

4) Now, slowly pull your head down toward your shoulder/armpit. 

5) Hold this stretch for about 20 seconds. Then repeat as needed. 

Levator Scapulae Pain Relief Stretch #2: The Head Tilt 

1) Rather than turning your head in this one, tilt your head to the opposite side of the pain at a 45-degree angle. 

2) As you do this, lower the shoulder on the other side. You’ll feel a deep stretch starting to happen in your neck and shoulders here. 

3) Hold for 20-30 seconds, and repeat as needed. 

Levator Scapulae Pain Relief Stretch #3: The Chin Tuck 

1) Stand up tall. 

2) Pull your chin in towards your neck. 

3) Use one hand to support your tucked chin. 

4) Place the other hand on top of your head, and tilt your head up slightly. 

5) Hold for about 20 seconds. 

6) Then, release–allowing your head chin to move out and forward again. 

Levator Scapulae Pain Relief Stretch #4: The Shoulder Shrug 

1) Keep your arms naturally down at your sides. 

2) Now, make circular motions with your shoulders around 10-15 times. 

3) Repeat this circular motion in the opposite direction. 

Levator Scapulae Pain Relief Stretch #5: The Lacrosse Ball Stretch 

1) First, let’s locate your levator scapulae. To do this, stretch your arm across your chest and neck and find the top edge of your opposite shoulder blade with your fingers. It can help to raise your shoulder blade up a bit to feel the tissue underneath. 

2) Now, place a lacrosse ball over the levator scapulae. 

3). Back up against the wall, so the pressure between your body and the wall holds the lacrosse ball up. 

4) Now, add in Stretch #1: The Head Turn: turn your head to the opposite side of your levator scapula pain, and use your arm to gently pull your chin down towards your shoulder. 

5) After this, you can level up even more by bending your knees, allowing your back to roll up and down on the ball for a deep levator scapula pain massage.


Levator Scapulae Pain Relief Stretch #6: Lie Down With Head Tilt 

1) Lie down on your back on a yoga mat with bent knees and feet flat on the floor. 

2) Now, tuck your chin in toward the floor. 

3) Once your chin is tucked, lift your head just slightly off the ground, allowing your neck muscles to support you in the chin tuck. 

4) Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat as needed. 

Levator Scapulae Pain Relief Stretch #7: Doorway Stretch 

1) For this one, you’ll need a doorway…shocker, I know. 

2) With your arms at your side, place your palms on either side of the doorway. 

3) As you do this, step forward slightly, leaning forward with your chest. 

4) You’ll feel a good stretch here in your shoulder blades. 

5) Hold for 30 seconds. Then repeat as needed. 

Levator Scapulae Pain Relief Stretch #8: Chest Stretch 

1) Clasp your hands together behind your back. 

2) Now, shrug your shoulders up while also arching your chest

3) Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds.

4) Repeat as needed. 

Levator Scapulae Pain: Massage 

levator scapulae pain


Stretching muscles is almost ALWAYS the first step. Stretching a tight muscle is like trying to stretch a frozen bungee cord. It doesn't work. 

So now that you know how to treat/relieve levator scapulae pain with these 8 stretches–it’s time to massage the muscle. 

As you know, to find your levator scapulae: 

1) Bring your opposite arm in front of your body and over your shoulder. 

2) Now, use your fingers to find the top edge of your shoulder blade. 

3) If your levator scapulae are in pain, you’ll 100% feel tightness and soreness in that trigger point the more you press in with your fingers. 

4) You might even feel a headache start to happen because of the connection to your head and eyes.

Now that you know how to locate your levator scapulae, here is a levator scapulae self-massage you can try today 

Levator Scapulae Pain Massage Level 1: Once you locate your levator scapulae with your fingers, massage the area lightly by moving your fingers back and forth in semi-circular motions. 

Levator Scapulae Pain Massage Level 2: From here, go back into Stretch #1: The Head Turn. By turning your head to the opposite side while massaging your levator scapulae, you’ll add that extra stretch into your massage. 

Levator Scapulae Pain Massage Level 3: Going back now to Level 1, use your fingers to hold down the muscle as you lift the shoulder and hold for a few repetitions. 


Levator Scapulae Anatomy & Function 

Raise the Shoulder Blades 

What does the word “levator” sound like? 

If you’re thinking elevator, then you’re not too far off. 

The word “levator” literally means to raise. And the word “scapulae” refers to the shoulder blades. [1] 

As the name implies, the levator scapulae raise the shoulder blades

This muscle connects the shoulder blade to the neck–beginning at the neck, running down both sides of it, and then connecting to the respective shoulder blades. 

One muscle that is super close in proximity is the upper trapezius–which overlays the levator scapulae, and the levator scapulae work together with the trapezius and the rhomboid muscle to help raise those shoulder blades. [1] 

Any time you shrug or lift your shoulders to your ears, your levator scapulae get involved–helping your shoulder blades “elevate.” 

Lateral Flexion of the Neck 

This means using your neck any time you bend your head to the side. For this motion, your levator scapulae help the process along. 

Upward Scapular Rotation 

When you raise both of your arms up at the same time, your shoulder blades actually turn inward from the top, and sure enough, it’s those levator scapulae that help this happen! 

Same-Side Rotation

Turn your head to one side, and this is same-side rotation. The levator scapulae help you any time you turn to the side to look at something. 

How to Know if You Have Levator Scapulae Pain

Now that we know the function of this muscle, the tell-tale signs of levator scapulae pain will make even more sense. 

Most likely, if you have levator scapulae pain, you’ll notice any of the following symptoms: 

- Pain in your neck–especially in the sides of your neck  

- Pain in your shoulder blades–especially at the top of your shoulder blades

- Stiffness in your neck

- Soreness in your neck when you touch the muscle 

- Headaches 

- Limited range of motion in your neck and shoulder blades–especially pain while rotating your head or lifting your neck up while lying down


Levator Scapulae Pain Causes

Probably your next question, then, is: “Why do I have levator scapulae pain in the first place?!” 

Check How You Look at Your Screens

how to treat/relieve levator scapulae pain


It’s all about the forward head posture

Or should I say–it’s NOT about the forward head posture–meaning, you should avoid forward head posture at all costs if you’re looking to avoid levator scapulae pain! 

Even as you read this article, check the position of your neck and head

Most likely, you’re craning your neck forward just a bit–towards your computer or phone screen. That’s SO natural to do because we’re trying to see the words better on our screens, but while we may be helping our eyesight, we’re certainly not helping our neck muscles.

Next time you sit down to work at your computer, check your posture

Make sure your chest is tall and your shoulders are back

This will help you keep your head and neck in a neutral position. 

To learn more about the importance of neutral posture and how to build an ergonomic workspace for yourself, check out the article below: 

“What’s the Most Important Benefit of Maintaining a Neutral Posture?”


Levator Scapulae Pain Sleeping Position

Levator Scapulae Pain Sleeping Position


To help with levator scapulae pain, you can check your sleeping position as well. 

Do you tend to sleep on your stomach with your head turned to one side? Time to change up that position. 

Or how about—do you have a pillow that causes your neck to tilt upward while you sleep? Time for a new pillow, my friend. 

Finding a pillow that keeps your neck in a neutral position while you sleep is a MUST when it comes to the best levator scapulae pain sleeping position! 

If you’re a side sleeper, it also helps to place a pillow underneath your top arm. This helps reduce the tension from your neck to your shoulder blades. 


Dropped Shoulder Syndrome 

When it comes to more severe levator scapulae pain, dropped shoulder syndrome could be a possible condition. In dropped shoulder syndrome, you’ll experience weakness in the shoulder blade, which causes it to protrude. 

It is believed that weak levator scapulae muscles are a potential cause of dropped shoulder syndrome, which is part of why it is so important to stretch, massage, and strengthen these muscles. [2] 


Resources on Neck & Back Pain

Neck pain and back pain shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your life. 

And we believe if you fix the muscles, you fix the pain. That’s the belief we’ve built our resources around, so whether you access our blog, YouTube channel, or online products and programs–every single resource is designed to help YOU become the master of your own pain–whether it’s neck pain, back pain, hip pain, glute pain, etc. 

So, here are some other great resources on how YOU can fix your muscles to fix your pain. 


“Neck Workouts for a Thicker, Stronger Neck”

“What is Turtle Neck Syndrome and How to Fix it!”

“8 Trapezius Stretches to Loosen Tight Traps” 


Neck Training Like Andrew Huberman (Results After 4 Weeks)

This Posture Routine Is Fixing My Shoulders & Neck

Posture Correction Exercises

Levator Scapulae Pain FAQs

How do you relieve levator scapulae pain?

To relieve levator scapulae pain, I recommend using the 8 stretches in this article! My personal favorite is The Head Turn–where you turn your head to the opposite side of your neck pain and then pull your chin gently down toward your shoulder. 

Massage is another great technique to relieve levator scapulae pain. 

What does levator scapulae pain indicate?

Levator scapulae pain could indicate that you’ve been sitting with a forward-head posture–basically, craning your neck forward too much as you look at a computer screen or a book. 

What does levator scapulae pain feel like?

Levator scapulae pain typically feels like soreness and pain in the side of your neck and upper shoulder blades. 

To know if your levator scapulae are causing pain, check for pain in your neck and shoulder blades–as well as limited mobility as you tilt or rotate your head and neck. Dropped Shoulder Syndrome is also a condition where you will feel pain or numbness in your shoulder blade, causing it to drop. 






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