The levator scapulae muscle (‘levator scap’ or ‘scapula’ for short) is a large, superficial muscle of the upper back and neck that extends along the neck and elevates the shoulder blade (scapula). In order to contract, the levator scapulae receive innervation by the dorsal scapular nerve.
Additionally, there are two levator scapulae muscles which are located along opposite sides of the neck. They originate from each posterior tubercle of the processes of the upper cervical vertebrae. The levator scapulae then travel down to the insert near the superior angle of the medial border of the scapula.
It lies deep to the sternocleidomastoid at its superior aspect, and to the trapezius muscles at its inferior aspect. The muscles also lay superior to the rhomboids. In addition, it encompasses part of the floor of the posterior triangle of the neck, an important region of the neck which contains neural structures.
The main action of the levator scapula muscles is to elevate the scapula when working in conjunction with the trapezius and rhomboid muscles. They also help tilt the glenoid cavity inferiorly by rotating the scapula downward, while the trapezius and other major muscles also contract.
Levator scapulae syndrome is a condition that causes pain over the upper medial angle of the scapula. It is usually caused by the poor posture of the shoulders. For instance, sitting at a computer hunched over with your shoulders rounded may cause pain in your shoulder blade, thus increasing the risk of developing the condition. This posture stretches the levator scapulae muscle and, if performed over a long period of time, can cause inflammation and pain within the muscle. This muscle often becomes tense and painful leading to reduced motion in the area.