Muscle Anatomy: What is the Levator Scapula muscle?

August 9, 2023

Don’t wear your shoulders as earrings!

The Levator Scapulae muscle laterally flexes the head and neck as well as rotates it ipsilaterally, elevates the shoulder blade (scapula), and rotates the scapula in a downward movement. This muscle also extends the head and neck. It originates at the transverse processes of the 1st through 4th cervical vertebrae, and inserts at the medial border of the scapula between the superior aspect of the spine of the scapula and the superior angle.

*The origin of a muscle is the most fixed attachment point.

**The insertion of a muscle is the most moveable attachment point.

This muscle can be aggravated by shrugging the shoulders, poor posture, carrying a heavy handbag, sitting at a desk, and the list can go on. Basically, chronic overloading! Did you know that this muscle can also occasionally be implicated in jaw pain? Yep! Even though Travell, Simons, & Simons don’t have jaw pain noted as a common location for referred pain, it has been observed clinically by many practitioners through the years. A well-placed trigger point injection (administered by your physician) or dry needling (administered by your Acupuncturist) at the insertion region of the levator scapula, or trigger point therapy combined with METs can significantly reduce pain and tension in this muscle, subsequently reducing jaw pain.

In the image above, the areas of muscle marked with an X are where trigger points (“knotted” areas of hyperirritable muscle) occur in the Levator Scapula. The areas of red are where the trigger points often refer pain. As Ida Rolf stated, “Where it is it ain’t!”