The Levator Scapulae Muscle

August 17, 2015
The Levator Scapulae Muscle

Exploring the levator scapulae muscle

The levator scapulae muscle is the last of the muscles that move the scapula that we’ll look at in the ‘Muscle of the Month’ posts. So far we have covered the: rhomboids, trapezius, pectoralis minor, serratus anterior.

What does levator scapulae mean?

Levator comes from the Latin word “levare” meaning “to lift” and “scapulae” refers to the scapula bone itself. Therefore, this is a muscle that lifts, or elevates, the scapula. The levator scapulae, along with the rhomboids, form the deep layer of muscles on the back.

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Where do the levator scapulae attach?

Levator scapula runs along the lateral and posterior sides of the neck. The inferior, or inner portion, is normally deep to and covered by the trapezius. The top, or superior portion, becomes superficial.

Origin of levator scapulae

Levator scapulae originates on the transverse processes of the vertebrae C1-C4.

Insertion of levator scapulae

Levator scapulae inserts on the superior angle of the scapula.

The Levator Scapulae Muscle Attachments

What actions does the levator scapulae do?

Levator primarily elevates, or lifts, the scapula. This is because of its location above the scapula. When the levator contracts, the scapula also downwardly rotates. This action happens because of the location of the levator muscle and the ability of the scapula to rotate. If we stabilize our scapula and our body is in the right position, levator scapulae also assist in lateral flexion and extension of the head and neck.

What are the most common injuries to the levator muscle?

The most common injury to levator scapulae is called ‘levator scapulae syndrome’.  It typically happens when we overuse levator scapulae. We might overuse this muscle during sports, or when we do repetitive tasks during our daily activities.

Symptoms of levator scapulae syndrome include:

  • Pain, inflammation, and potentially restricted movement of the neck.

Consult your physician for assessment and treatment recommendations.

Learn a system for working with injuries

Postures where this muscle contracts

Marichyasana C

Levator scapulae contracts in postures where we downwardly rotate our scapula. This happens in bindings such as in marichyasana C where we reach our arm behind our back.


In shalabasana, levator scapulae assists in holding our head up. This is also what we refer to as extension of the head and neck.

Postures where this muscle is lengthened

plow - halasana

Halasana, or plow posture, lengthens the levator scapulae muscle as we are taking our neck into flexion.

headstand - sirsasana

We might find levator scapulae lengthening in our headstand. This is because we are upwardly rotating our scapula as well as depressing them.

Trigger points

Levator Scapulae Trigger Points