9 Levator Scapula Stretches and Exercises to Treat Trigger Points: A Concise Guide

Experiencing neck pain or stiffness? Levator scapula trigger points might be the culprit, and fortunately, the right levator scapula stretches and exercises can help alleviate these issues. This article will explore various techniques designed to treat levator scapula trigger points, so you can find relief and improve your overall physical well-being.

One key to treating levator scapula trigger points is to properly stretch the levator scapula muscle, which is responsible for elevating your shoulder blades. By incorporating levator scapula stretches such as the armpit stretch or the seated levator scapulae stretch into your daily routine, you can effectively target the stiff, sore areas in your neck and find relief from pain.

Along with levator scapula stretches, certain exercises can help strengthen your levator scapulae muscles and improve your posture, such as shrugs with shoulder protraction. By combining levator scapula stretching and strengthening routines, you’ll be better equipped to address those bothersome trigger points, enhance your mobility, and maintain a pain-free neck.

Levator Scapula Trigger Points

Levator scapula trigger points can be a common cause of neck and shoulder pain. In this section, we will delve into the causes and symptoms of these trigger points, as well as some stretches and exercises that can help alleviate discomfort and improve your overall well-being.


There are several factors that can contribute to the development of levator scapula trigger points, including:

  • Poor posture, particularly when sitting or working at a desk for extended periods
  • Carrying heavy bags or backpacks on one shoulder
  • Stress, which can lead to increased muscle tension
  • Overuse or strain during athletic activities, such as swimming or weightlifting
  • Previous neck or shoulder injuries


When you have levator scapula trigger points, you may experience a range of symptoms, such as:

  • Neck pain and stiffness, particularly when turning your head to the side
  • Pain or discomfort between your shoulder blades
  • Decreased range of motion in your neck and shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Referral pain, which may radiate from your neck and shoulder down into your arm

Stretches and Exercises

Implementing some effective stretches and exercises into your daily routine can help alleviate levator scapula trigger points:

  1. Standing Modified Levator Scap Stretch: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-distance apart. Place your left arm across your body with a slight elbow bend. Grab your left wrist with your right arm and slightly add tension to keep the left shoulder stable. Reach your chin to your chest.
  2. Armpit Stretch: Sit tall in a sturdy chair, with your feet about hip-distance apart, planted on the ground. Roll your shoulders back slightly, engage your core, and check your posture. Perform a side neck stretch by gently pulling your head down towards your armpit with the opposite hand.
  3. Seated Levator Scapulae Stretch: Sit up straight with both hands at your sides. Raise your right arm forwards, reach over your back, grasp your right shoulder blade and apply downward pressure. Tilt your head to the left and gently stretch.

Incorporate these stretches and exercises into your daily routine to help manage and alleviate the pain associated with levator scapula trigger points. Remember to always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program, especially if you are experiencing persistent pain or discomfort.

Stretches for Relief

Having tight levator scapulae can cause discomfort, but incorporating targeted stretches into your routine can help alleviate trigger points and improve your overall neck and shoulder health. The following stretches will target the levator scapulae and can be done at home with no special equipment required.

Neck Rotation Stretch

To begin the Neck Rotation Stretch, sit or stand with your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed. Slowly turn your head to the left side while keeping your shoulders and chest still. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds, feeling the gentle stretch in the right side of your neck.

levator scapula stretch neck rotation

Next, carefully return your head to the center before rotating to the right side to stretch the left side of your neck. Maintain this position for 15-30 seconds, then bring your head back to the center. Repeat these stretches 2-3 times for both sides to effectively target the levator scapulae muscles .

Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

Begin the Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch by standing or sitting in a comfortable position with a straight spine. Take your right arm and extend it across your body at chest level. Use your left hand to gently pull your right arm closer to your chest, feeling a stretch in your right shoulder and neck area. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds, and then release your arm.

Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch.  levator scapula stretch
Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch.

Repeat this process for your left arm, holding the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Perform these stretches 2-3 times on each side to effectively target the levator scapula.

Overhead Triceps Stretch

To start the Overhead Triceps Stretch, stand or sit comfortably with your spine straight. Extend your right arm overhead and bend your elbow, placing your hand on your back. To increase the stretch, use your left hand to gently pull your right elbow back and toward your head. You should feel a stretch in the back of your upper right arm, shoulder, and right side of your neck. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, then release your elbow and lower your arm.

Overhead triceps stretch
Overhead triceps stretch

Repeat this stretch for your left arm, holding for 15-30 seconds. Practice these stretches 2-3 times on both sides to stretch the levator scapula muscles.

Exercises for Rehabilitation

In this section, we will discuss a few targeted exercises that can help relieve pain and tension associated with levator scapula trigger points. These exercises focus on strengthening and stretching the levator scapula muscle while also improving your overall posture.

Shoulder Shrugs

Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms resting at your sides. Slowly raise your shoulders towards your ears, keeping your neck relaxed. Hold this position for a few seconds, then gently lower your shoulders back down to the starting position. Repeat this movement for a total of 10 to 15 repetitions, making sure to focus on engaging the levator scapula muscle throughout the exercise. SET FOR SET suggests practicing lightweight shrugs with the scapula in slight protraction to strengthen the levator scapulae and improve dynamic posture.

Resistance Band Rows

For this exercise, you will need a resistance band. Secure the band around a sturdy support at chest height. Stand facing the support with your feet hip-width apart, holding the ends of the band in each hand. Keep your elbows close to your body and your shoulders down and relaxed. Pull your hands towards your chest while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly release back to the starting position, maintaining control throughout the movement. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions, focusing on proper form and engaging the levator scapulae during the exercise.

Scapular Wall Slides

Stand with your back against a wall and engage your core. Place your arms against the wall with your elbows, wrists, and hands touching the wall as well. Slowly slide your arms up the wall, trying to keep your wrists and elbows in contact with the wall throughout the movement. Once your arms are fully extended, slide them back down to the starting position. Aim to complete 10 to 15 repetitions of this exercise, paying special attention to maintaining proper posture and alignment.

By incorporating these exercises into your routine, you can effectively strengthen and stretch the levator scapula muscle, potentially alleviating discomfort and improving your overall neck and shoulder health.

Additional Treatments

Aside from stretches and exercises, there are other ways to help relieve trigger points in the levator scapula muscle. In this section, we will explore heat and cold therapy and massage as additional treatments to improve your condition.

Heat and Cold Therapy

Applying heat to your neck and shoulder area can help relax the muscles and increase blood flow, promoting healing. You can use a heating pad, warm towel, or heat pack for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day.

In contrast, cold therapy can help reduce inflammation and numb pain. Try using an ice pack, cold gel pack, or a bag of frozen peas for 10-15 minutes, making sure to wrap it in a towel to prevent frostbite. You can also alternate between heat and cold therapy depending on your preference and the stage of your injury.


Massaging your neck and shoulder area can help release tension and alleviate pain from levator scapula trigger points. Here’s how to do a simple self-massage:

  • Gently press on the trigger point with your fingers or a massage tool.
  • Use circular motions to massage the area, increasing pressure as you feel comfortable.
  • Hold pressure on the trigger point for 30-60 seconds, focusing on deep, slow breaths.
  • Release pressure and move to another spot if necessary.

If you’re not comfortable performing self-massage or need more targeted relief, consider seeking the help of a professional massage therapist who is trained in trigger point therapy. They can help identify and treat your trigger points effectively.

By incorporating these additional treatments into your routine, you can further support your recovery and alleviate discomfort associated with levator scapula trigger points.

Prevention Tips

To prevent levator scapula trigger points from developing, there are some important measures you can take in your daily life.

Maintain Proper Posture

One of the key factors in preventing levator scapula trigger points is maintaining proper posture. Be mindful of your posture throughout the day, especially when sitting or standing for extended periods. Keep your shoulders relaxed and back, align your ears over your shoulders, and avoid slouching or hunching. Utilizing ergonomic furniture, like a good quality chair, can also help support good posture.

Regular Breaks and Stretching

Another important preventive measure is taking regular breaks and incorporating stretching exercises. When working on a computer or doing other activities that involve continuous strain on your neck and shoulders, take breaks every hour to stand up and move around. This change in position helps prevent muscle stiffness and tightness.

Additionally, include regular stretches for the levator scapula and surrounding muscles as part of your daily routine. Some effective stretches include the Standing Assisted Levator Scap Stretch and Armpit Stretch. Remember to hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds and repeat for 3-4 rounds, gradually increasing the duration as your comfort level allows.

Strength Training

Lastly, strength training is another essential component for preventing levator scapula trigger points. Strengthening exercises targeting your upper back, shoulders, and neck muscles can help improve muscle balance and decrease tension. Some effective strength training exercises include:

  • Rows
  • Shoulder Shrugs
  • Reverse Flyes

Incorporate these levator scapula stretches and exercises into your weekly exercise routine to help maintain strong and functional muscles, reducing the likelihood of developing trigger points in the levator scapula area.

What are trigger points?





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