Levator Scapulae Active Stretch


This is Brent, President of B2C Fitness, and in this video, we’re doing an active stretch for the levator scapulae. So, for
doing active stretching, I’m going to assume that you’ve already done your release
techniques, and that you’ve probably been working on that static pocket stretch to
help return a muscle that is adaptively shortened, to its optimal length. I’m
going have my friend Salve come out here and help me demonstrate this exercise.
We’re going to do a quick kinesiology lesson, because this is a fairly involved
stretch. All right, so our levator scapulae runs right here on the side of our neck,
does a little bit of lateral flexion, ipsilateral rotation, and extension.
That’s its cervical spine function. Now at the scapula, the same muscle does
elevation, as its name would imply. The levator scapulae elevates the scapula, it
downwardly rotates the scapula by pulling up on that internal angle, alright, that superior angle of the
scapula, tilts it this way, as well as anteriorly tilts the scapula. So first things first, I want to knock
out some of those joint actions. That’s a whole lot of joint actions to think
about. I want to make a stretch that’s at least
fairly simple to do. So what I’m going to have Salve do, is she’s going to back up
against this wall, she’s going to step out a little bit, so she’s leaning
against the wall. That’ll posteriorly tilt her scapula, and then if I get her
to depress her scapula while she’s back in that wall, it’ll fix her into a little
bit of depression. From here, we can now do our pocket stretch, which if you’ve
been doing your static stretch, your client should be well aware of, and all I
have to do is add one more action to get some upward rotation, and we get a nice
active stretch. So what I’m going to have Salve do here, is she’s going to go into
her pocket stretch, looking down into this pocket, she’s going to use that hand
to hold her head in place. I don’t want her pulling on her head with this arm,
she’s just holding her head in place. And now she’s going to reach up with
this arm to force her scapula into upward rotation. She’ll hold for two, and then she’ll come
back down. Look straight ahead at me. Good, perfect.
Look down. Hold. By going into upward rotation, she
activates all those upward rotators, which will reciprocally inhibit her
levator scapulae. Once again, the goal of active stretching, is to strengthen our
functional antagonists, as well as return reciprocal inhibition back to optimal,
back to the way it should be. Let’s see one more rep here, Salve. So
she’s going to look down. She’s going to hold, not pull, and then
reach up, making sure that she keeps depressed, though. She’s keeping her
shoulder down, which Salve is doing a great job of. I’m going to have you guys see just one more angle, just so you guys can see which direction her head’s going, how
she’s reaching up. Why don’t you go ahead and flatten yourself against this wall? Alright guys, I’m going to have her draw in and she’s going to, kind of, take that curve out of her lumbar spine. Good, Salve, so let me have you reach down. You’re going into flexion, contralateral rotation, lateral flexion
away. She’s holding and she’s going to reach up, hold for two, good, and back down. Now with all active stretches, guys, it’s 8 to 15 reps, 2-5 second holds. By the end of your set, you should start to feel things loosen up a little
bit, should start to feel an increase in extensibility, and of course if you
selected the right stretch, after you’ve done this, you should move a little
better. I hope you guys have enjoyed this video. Thank you Salve, once again.

52 Replies to “Levator Scapulae Active Stretch”

  1. Thanks NoisyRiot,

    No doubt Salvina is a beautiful woman… I am fortunate to have some beautiful friends who are willing to help out.

    As far as the sternocliedomastoid: You can't release it without manual techniques, generally this is done using a "pincer" grip around the tender area. There are some very sensitive structures in close proximity to the SCM so this is best left to trained manual therapists (LMT, DC, DPT, ATC). As far as a stretch… well… there is this conundrum –

  2. The position that you would put your head in may also impinge on nerve roots or the vertebral arteries. This is another stretch that I generally leave to a manual therapist. A manual therapist can position the head in "retraction" and actually create a traction force to reduce the possibility of impingement. Hope that answers your question.
    Sincerely,
    B2

  3. Hey NoisyRiot,
    I would not advocate trying to strengthen the SCM as this may increase activity and strength and exacerbate postural impairment in the cervical spine. The commonly under-active muscles for this impairment are the longus coli and longus capitus. We use cervical retraction exercises to strengthen these muscles and optimize movement.

  4. Hi Brent I love your videos they have been very helpful to me.
    First, sorry for my English I’m from Europe. Second, I have question for you: I have scoliosis with right curve of 20 degrees. I do my exercises for scoliosis regularly but I stopped stretching. Because I have strange reactions to stretching (sharp pain between shoulder blades and generally strange sensations all over my back muscles) usually day or two after stretching, but never consistently so I can’t be completely sure.

  5. But recently I had stiff levator scapuale for a week (during the night I have suddenly pulled my pillow and from than on my neck stiffed) so that might not happen if I had elastic muscles and I am considering to start stretching again. So I am wondering should I stretch only one side of my body? (opposite of the curve) and when I start stretching how much time (or stretching sessions) is needed till my muscles get to optimal length?

    Thank you

  6. I have headaches, and when I did a google search for levator scapulae stretch, your youtube video came up…I did this stretch…I'm going to continue these and hope they help my headaches. Thanks!

  7. Hey Pera Kojot,
    I really only have one suggestion, find a physiotherapist who is willing to work with you. It sounds like you have a complex set of issues and I would be guessing if I gave you any advice. I know this must be frustrating to hear, but you need someone who can assess you in person and then try a few different treatments to see what works best for you. Good luck, and let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.
    B2

  8. Hey Luella
    It's a good start, but may not be enough…
    You could add the following techniques to increase your chances of getting relief (videos to all recommended techniques can be found on my channel) –
    Levator Scapulae SA Release,
    Trapezius SA Release
    Rhomboids SA Release
    Child's Pose Stretch
    Levator Scapulae Stretch
    Trapezius stretch
    Deep Cervical Flexor Activation.

    There are more pieces to this complex puzzle, but that should get you started.

  9. Hey Ahmed,
    Google my article "Upper Body Corrective Exercise and Sample Routine" you can also google "Upper Body Dysfunction" for the theory component. I think you will find plenty of info to work with.
    B2

  10. Hi Brent,
    My son has level 1 to 2 Sprengels Deformity. We have never told his coaches and no one has been able to notice. He's extremely high functioning in his sport but is now having trouble doing squats during weight training while lifting heavy weights. This seems like a great stretch for him. Do you have any other recommendations to help strengthen his scapula muscles and help maintain his ROM (which has always been at 90%).

  11. Thank you for the kudos,
    Unfortunately "frozen shoulder" is a tricky condition. Great care must be taken to ensure that appropriate intensity is used during all exercise. The tricky balance is – pushing to regain your mobility without exacerbating the inflammatory process that caused you to lose it. I am not sure that I would use different exercises than I demonstrate in my videos, but I would be carefully monitoring your progress.
    Sorry I cannot be of more help,
    B2

  12. Hey DirtyYaggy,
    Just be careful, I know PT hurts, but I would hate to see you stuck with limited function of that arm for life. Generally a "frozen shoulder" will start to "thaw"… I think the research says between 6 months and 2 years after onset. Be patient but persistent, be an informed consumer but don't be dismissive of professional opinion, and you could always find another physio or doctor for a second look.
    I wish you the best,
    B2

  13. Hey Brent, would this stretch be a viable option to treat forward head posture? Also what would you recommend to remedy this postural disfunction?

  14. Hey TsabaronSecron,
    This stretch would be one technique of many in the correction of forward head posture. You may also add the levator scapulae release, the upper trap release and stretch, the thoracic spine SA mobilization, and deep cervical flexor activation… at least, that would be a good start. There is far more to this dysfunction, but some of the muscles involved and the dysfunctional arthrokinematics require manual work. Good luck on your program and keep me posted on the results.
    B2

  15. Hey Brent. Great set of videos. I have a question. I suffer from forward head position which gives me excrutiating occipital tension headaches that can last up to 24 hours. I go for massage therapy and it seems that some of the "main" culprits are my levator and scapula muscles which lock up. Would this stretch help? Any others you would suggest? Also, what can I do when I am in the midst of those headaches that would help those muscles release? I live alone so I dont have anyone to assist me.

  16. Look up my article "Cervicogenic Headaches Research Review and Integrated Treatment Approach" – I have a small sample workout with links to the specific videos at the bottom of the article under "Level 3: Self-administered Techniques" – I would post the link, but Youtube will not let me in this comments section.
    In the mean time you could also look up the release videos for Levator Scapulae, Upper Trap, and Supraspinatus… Thoracic SA Mobilization too.
    Hope that helps,
    B2

  17. I have been doing the stretches , I wonder if I should move onto the release technique now . I get a lot of trigger points when I sit at the computer lately I wonder whats going on with that? how do I get ride of this nonsense , do I need ART therapy or something .

  18. do I do the pocket stretch , this one and the tennis ball one all same time ?? im confused do I do all 3 every day? whats a regiment you could prescribe that would fix this im tired of this ,  physio didn't do anything its lame . Its def my levator scapulae . it hurts more when I tilt my head back wards than it does to turn my head to the right if that info helps any at all . trigger points are upper back between shoulder and base of neck and also base of neck between neck like front trap area I guess? idk if that helps . computer or sitting down gives lots of trigger points . on my other side too for some reason .

  19. Hi brent, first of all I respect for your sincerety and helpfulness. I have this issue since forever. My right scapula is unstable.. it sticks out and internally rotated (only my right, the left one sits perfectly) and due to this I experienced some shoulder injuries like rc inflammations, scapula pain etc… it's like my right rhomboid doesn't work. What's wrong with my shoulder? And what should I do? Which exercises do you suggest? Thanks for your help and sorry for my english.

  20. Thanks so much for your postings. I have been having lots of problems with the Levator and mid-/lower- trap on my right side. These exercises are starting to help. I have fewer headaches and more mobility without pain.

  21. Hey Brent
    I've been having trouble with overhead pressing on the left side. It seems I don't have full control of my scapula on that side and experiencing the shoulder raising itself up. It is also evident this is the case due to my serratus anterior and lat on the left side being less developed. Does this point to having lack of stability of the scapula on the left side? And will these exercises help this? 

  22. I do feel a great deal of relief on my pec minor after this stretch but I feel tingling radiating from my hand down my arm on the stretched side. Am I doing something wrong with the stretch technique?

  23. New comments on the video: Levator Scapulae Active Stretch

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  24. If the pain and spasm is on the right do you stretch to the left or right. I don't have full range of motion the the right due to pain and tightness. But it seems that the stretch needs to be facing the left pocket to stretch out that tightness on right. When I try to do the stretch looking at the right pocket the pain stops me.

  25. Is the proper order of treating a specific muscle- first static stretch, then active release, then finally active stretch?

  26. I have a query. If the static stretch involves scapula deprssion and then you add in upward rotation for the active stretch, surely you are going to get elevation of the scapula since elevation and upward rotation go hand in hand? Am i mistaken or am i just overthinking it?

  27. When I do this stretch, I feel a stronger pull on the side of my neck with my arm raised. is that supposed to happen? my shoulder also trembles when moving arm back down.

    also..when i return head to neutral facing forward position..the side of my neck that was stretched feels pain.

  28. i definitely have a tight levator sapulae (raised left shoulder). when i do this stretch it hurts more. do i need to be more gentle with the stretch?

  29. Hi Brent, curious as to why you have her flatten the lumber curve for this movement as opposed to a neutral curve? Thanks Dixie

  30. I have computer desk and type all day. I don't know what you called it but it's by neck and shoulder on the sides. is that levator scapulae and what other exercises I can do at home.

  31. This stretch is impossible for me to do, other muscles are tight and weak which are preventing me from doing it with correct form, it's just impossible, please someone help.

  32. I stretch the levator scap the right side by actually looking at the pants pocket of the right side, then lifting the left arm up and then bending first the neck towards the pocket, and as the muscle regains length, bend the head towards the chest while rotating the head externally. This sounds dangerous when i here the advice you give about protecting the neck tissues in this video and your static stretch one but it is really effective. In my experience much more effective than this stretch.

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