Before you read any further, try this exercise: Take a deep inhale and slowly exhale.
As you exhale, release your shoulders and allow them to drop down into a fully rested position. Did you notice a full inch or more of movement? These are your levator scapulae muscles, and they are rarely relaxed. They are responsible for elevating the shoulders, rotating the head, and keeping the head from falling forward.
Between typing, driving, looking down to text, and holding the phone between the ear and shoulder; the levators are constantly working. Not only are they overworked, they are often the culprit of neck pain, shoulder pain, and the dreaded ‘stiff neck’. Overuse of these muscles can lead to chronic tension and painful trigger points. Read on for some common bad habits that lead to levator scapulae pain and how to correct them!
Problem: Typing at a desk with a keyboard positioned higher than the elbows, forcing the levators to raise the arms to reach the work surface
Solution: Keyboard and work surface should be level with the elbows in their relaxed state, with the arms at a 90 degree angle, allowing the levators to relax. Consider using a chair with arm supports or keyboard tray to get the perfect angle.
Problem: Holding a phone to the ear, or pinning a phone between the ear and shoulder for extended periods of time
Solution: If talking on the phone is part of your job, consider an ear piece or head set, which will prevent excessive one-sided use of the levator.
Problem: Stress-induced “turtle head” and all around poor posture
Solution: Bring awareness to your posture several times a day by checking in with your head and shoulder position relative to the rest of your body. Roll shoulders back and down into a natural, resting position. Allow the head to float up and back to sit on top of the body, avoiding the “forward head” posture that excessively lengthens and strains the levators.
If you are dealing with neck and shoulder pain, chiropractic and massage therapy can not only alleviate symptoms, but help address and correct any dysfunction within the structures. Treatments include cervical (neck) adjustments and manual therapy not only on the levators, but the trapezius, splenii muscles, sternocleidomastoid and scalenes, all important muscles that work together to ensure proper function of our head, neck and shoulders. Make an appointment with one of our providers to get an examination and treatment plan underway!