How To Massage the Levator Scapula Muscle

Tight Neck and Shoulder Muscles Deserve a Break

The levator scap inserts on the inside top part of the shoulderblade.
The levator scap inserts on the inside top part of the shoulderblade.. (c) Anne Asher 2006 licensed to About.com

The "Spot"

I don't know about you, but some muscles - especially the ones that help me with my posture get really tight.  So tight in places, in fact, that I've affectionately labeled these areas "the spots."

Of all the "spots" I have, there is none more apropos for this title that the muscle at the inner, upper corner of my shoulder blade (a bone also know as the scapula.)  

The "Spot" of All "Spots" - Levator Scapula Muscle

This muscle is called the levator scapula.

 The main job of the levator, as it is often called for short, is to raise your shoulder blade up toward your ear. But because the shoulder blade has a natural tendency to ride up by the ears, the levator scapula is often drafted to keep it down, and to keep it from moving - in other words, to stabilize the bone.  To do this, the levator must contract and lengthen at the same time.  Not only that, but this is pretty hard work for the levator because the shoulder blade, in most people at least, loves to ride up. It's a habit.

The result?  The levator gets tight, especially at its attachments.  And yep, you guessed it - one of the attachments of the levator is located at that inner, upper border of the shoulder blade.  Hence - the "spot."

This kind of stretch-contraction at the "spot," is a little different than a typical muscle tension in that the muscle is chronically overstretched even as it works.

So while, yes, you want to release that icky tension - that gnawing point on the top of your shoulder, it will probably be helpful to you if you keep in mind that the levator is not only tight but also a bit disengaged.

By the way, this stretch-contraction combo is, in my observation, especially prevalent in computer workers.

Related: Learn About the Levator Scapula Muscle

Release Your Hard Working Levator Scap Muscle - Instructions

  1. Locate the inside top corner of the shoulder blade with your opposing side hand. See the picture for help.
  2. With your fingers, press into the area just above the inside top corner of the shoulder blade. This is where the soft tissue is. For this technique, you should be off the bone, and onto the muscle that attaches to the bone. We are using the bone as a landmark to locate the levator scapula muscle insertion.
  3. With a pressure that is firm enough to create a feeling but not so firm that it hurts, move your fingers back and forth over the area you located in step 2.
  4. Trace the muscle all the way up to your neck, making little circles. Let the muscle tension guide you as you make your way from the inside top of the shoulder blade to the side of the neck.
  5. Repeat on the other side.
  6. My article on the levator scapula muscle has a picture of the levator as well as the shoulder blades, to help you find where to massage.  It also continues our little discussion at the top of this article about the levator's special type of muscle contraction.

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