Help! I Have a Pain in My Neck

Love to Eat? Introducing

Are you passionate about food, nutrition and recipes? Unleash your inner foodie and check out our brand-new site - share your favorite recipes at Nutrition-WOD today!

Print
by MISSY ALBRECHT | DPT, CSCS, FMS

Muscle Spotlight: Levator Scapula

Location

This muscle originates from the first 4 cervical vertebrae and inserts onto the top/medial angle of the scapula (shoulder blade).

Function:

  • elevates and rotates the scapula downward
  • rotates and sidebends neck to the opposite direction

Just relax: If you find that you can never keep your neck relaxed during lifts (press) or even body weight movements (push-ups, pull-ups) you may have an overactive levator scap and really need to get into working out the muscle.
The levator scapula creates movement in the neck and shoulder complex (humerus and scapula). It works with the pec minor and rhomboids to rotate the scapula downward, which occurs when you bring your arm down from being overhead. This muscle doesn’t appear to have a lot of significant function, but it coordinates with all of the other surrounding muscles to keep the shoulder moving properly. It also helps to stabilize the neck when the shoulder has to move, and vice versa.

How It Limits Mobility

The negative effect: If the levator scapula is all balled up, the scapula cannot rotate up when you lift your arms up.
Although the levator scapula is an important muscle, I think of it more as a limiting factor in shoulder and neck mobility. This muscle usually becomes tight from poor posture. Whether it’s sitting with your shoulders shrugged up because you’re stressed, tilting your head to hold your phone to your shoulder, or just sitting in a slumped position this muscle takes the brunt. So what happens when this muscle becomes tight? Just like most other muscles, it limits mobility. If the levator scapula is all balled up, the scapula cannot rotate up when you lift your arms up. This can be a cause of a lot of inflammation and impingement in your shoulder because it narrows the space between your scapula and humerus. But do you ever think of working on your neck if your shoulder mobility is limited? If you don’t, then you should start because this muscle can be the main muscle limiting your overhead mobility. It’s the hidden secret!!

If you find that you can never keep your neck relaxed during lifts (press) or even body weight movements (push-ups, pull-ups) you may have an overactive levator scap and really need to get into working out the muscle. The levator scap will take over when other muscles are weak/tight in order to help you push heavy weight overhead (along with the upper trap). This is usually what the coaches are telling you to avoid! So if you feel like you try and try and still can’t keep them relaxed try working on the things below.

What To Do

1. Mobility work with the lacrosse ball

Lie on your back with the ball anywhere on the levator scapula muscle (see images above). It’s harder to stabilize the ball close to your neck, so it’s better to have it closer to your scapula. Then play around with moving your arm up over your head or out to the side and this will help to loosen up this muscle. You can also turn your head away from the ball to help work the muscle from the other direction. If this is too much pressure you can always just lean up against the wall.

2. Ball on stick

DIY mobility tools: Check out K-Starr’s homemade lacrosse ball/pvc here.
You can either create your own with a lacrosse ball and stick, or use the little one at the gym (I think it’s all made of wood?).

  • put the stick against the wall with the ball side facing you
  • lie on your back (knees bent) with the ball into the meaty part of your neck, near your levator scapula
  • use your legs to push your body weight into the ball and use the pressure to help release the muscle.
  • you can also move your arm up and over your head to mobilize more aggressively. The wall will get in the way though, so you will have to put the stick on the rack in order to allow space for your arm to move

3. Stretch! Here are some ideas…


Reference
Neumann, Donald A. Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Physical Rehabilitation. 2002.

This article was originally published on September 16, 2012 on CrossFit South Bay’s blog.

Printable Version

We Are Scouting Top Writers

Are you passionate about fitness and have something to say? Reach a huge online community and get the discussion going - start writing for Tabata Times today!

Share this post
@TabataTimes on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook 

Contribute to this story by commenting below:

Advertise Here

Most Popular of All Time

mindcoach published the post Confidence and High Intensity Performance on Tabata Times
I know we just moved out of ski season, but skiing has so much to teach us about mental strength...
CrossFit Dark Element shared a link on Facebook

http://cfdarkelement.com/whiteboard/

CrossFit Dark Element shared a link on Facebook

http://cfdarkelement.com/daily-wod/

CrossFit Sweatshop posted an article
CrossFit Oakdale shared a link on Facebook

http://cfoakdale.com/2014/07/03/kevins-climb-completed/

Concord CrossFit shared an image on Facebook

Welcome some new faces :-) great job tonight Courtney, John and Megan!!!

CrossFit Mill Valley shared an image on Facebook

Worlds colliding to save lives. Juggling for Jude #poweredbymammoth

CrossFit 209 Sport shared a link on Facebook

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=735577119822185&id=163071317072771

CrossFit 209 Sport posted on Facebook

What will you be making for your 4th of July BBQ??? Let's hear it!! https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=410308475776149&substory_index=0&id=271313329675665

CrossFit 209 Sport shared an image on Facebook

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=284606848385040&id=148284738683919 More info on knee pain!!

CrossFit Oakdale posted on Facebook

http://www.playbuzz.com/erikw/what-crossfit-exercise-are-you

CrossFit Envy shared a link on Facebook

Oops, forgot to mention, use the link to sign up and help a brother out :-P.

CrossFit Envy shared a link on Facebook

Hey everyone! Inov-8's, along with Skins and CEP compression gear, and other great gear for CrossFit.

CrossFit Modesto posted on Facebook

Just a little FYI guys, Friday July 4th. Coach Chris will be in at 5:30am for a workout and Coach Billy will be in at 9am as well! These are the only two classes for Friday, so prepare for some fun!

CrossFit Davis shared a link on Facebook

Make Coach Elliot happy and sign up for the Tommy Kono Meet coming up in August! There are sign up sheets at the gym! Talk to Elliot or any other coach for more info!

Tamalpais CrossFit posted on Facebook

July Happenings: Friday July 4th- 8 & 9am Classes only! Sunday July 6th- 9am Swim WOD at COM Kentfield Pool Sunday July 6th- Oly Strong moves to 10:15am on Sundays Tuesday July 8th- 11-11:45am CrossFit Kids starts, 2 spots left, register today! Parents WOD while your kid plays! Saturday July 12th- Crosstown Throwdown TCF vs Santa Rosa Strength and Conditioning – 11:45-2 pm at TCF, sign up on competition board located in SRB- all levels welcome! July 21st- Clarke Holland attends and dominates the CrossFit Games 2014

FTF Fitness posted an article
CrossFit Petaluma posted on Facebook

Schedule for the week of July 4th: Friday, July 4th: 10am class @ CSC only Saturday, July 5th: 10am class @ CSC only Make your way up to CrossFit Sonoma County to pick a Hero workout to complete in honor of Independence Day! The gym will be open from 10am-11:30am. Come in and throw down before a day filled with food, family, and fireworks!

CrossFit 209 Sport posted on Facebook

4th of July hours 8 and 9 AM only!!

bevchildress published the post Do You Struggle With Chronic Disease? on
I live with Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease. I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping it at bay and...
mlsweezey published the post Baby Got Back: My New CrossFit Ass and Other Image Crushing Muscles on
Random Person: “um, do you workout?” Me: “No. This totally happens by accident. Strangest...
CrossFit Modesto shared an image on Facebook

Last nights Pull Up Skill,Clinic was full as can be! We had people get their first Kipping Pull Up, we had others improve their technique, and started others on their way to getting pullups! It was great time yesterday, good work to all those who attended!

CrossFit HEALDSBURG posted on Facebook

Schedule for 4th of July weekend Thursday, July 3rd 6:00am 8:30am 9:30am 12:00pm 5:00pm Friday, July 4th 8:30am 9:30am 12:00pm Saturday, July 5th 9:00am Have a safe and happy 4th!!

South Sacramento CrossFit shared an image on Facebook

24:17 top time for the ladies for Shakira!

South Sacramento CrossFit shared an image on Facebook

Mr. Sub 20 Michael! 19:40 score to beat.

American River Crossfit shared a link on Facebook

07/02/2014 http://wp.me/sGeX1-07022014

CrossFit East Sacramento shared a link on Facebook

Today's blog post is up on the CFES Blog - [4th of July Outta The Box WOD @ Guy West]

CrossFit Envy posted on Facebook

Prehab/activation: SMR - low back / erectors 2 min Banded hamstring mobilization 2x10 glute bridges 2x10 supermans -then- 10x2 Banded Speed deadlifts Take a few minutes to find a reasonable work weight for Banded deadlifts. It will be in the 50-70% range of your best Deadlift... But use a weight that allows you to PULL FAST off the floor, and lockout fast, even with the band. Hold each lockout for a 3 count, and deload the bar between reps. Guys use the blue or red band, and girls use red. -then- 4 rounds for time: 400m run 500m row 60 double unders

CrossFit Envy posted on Facebook

Competitors Program Week 6, Day 3: 6x3 Power Cleans from the blocks @ 70-75% (at the knee or slightly above) -then- AMRAP in 10 minutes: (4,8,12...) toes to bar *unbroken 25' handstand walk after each round *if you complete the round of 24, then stop and mark the time -then- 4 rounds for time: 400m run 500m row 60 double unders

mindcoach published the post The Importance of Performance Goals on
I’ve written several posts and articles on the mental strength skill of goal setting, so this...
CrossFit West Petaluma shared a link on Facebook

Red, White, and Blue! http://blog.genesispetaluma.com/?p=2664

CrossFit Folsom Lake shared a link on Facebook

It's a new month! What are you going to do with it? These folks are making it happen! http://t.co/AJV8iYk8OR

CrossFit Davis shared an image on Facebook

June! Another great month at CFD!

Corey's Gym posted an article
CrossFit Petaluma shared a link on Facebook

CrossFit Sacramento posted on Facebook

Attention All Members.....The gym will be open on the 4th of July from 8-10am. There will be 1 class at 8 and open gym at 9. The gym will be closed on Saturday July 5th. Have a great Holiday weekend!

CrossFit Davis shared a link on Facebook

New On Ramp starts tonight! We are running a new schedule now that allows you to start on any Tuesday and attend classes for 4 weeks! For more info visit www.crossfitdavis.com or send an email to info@crossfitdavis.com

CrossFit Echelon posted an article
CrossFit Anywhere shared an image on Facebook

Who hit today's Swim WOD? If you missed it, have no fear. 5:30 and 6:30 classes are heading out soon. Get there!

Good Times CrossFit posted an article
CrossFit Anywhere shared an image on Facebook

There's still time to sign up for the Rowing Clinic with Scott Frandsen on July 12th at 10am. Learn how to row with Power and Efficiency from the Olympian and Rowing Coach. $60 per person. Sign up at the gym.

CrossFit Genesis shared an image on Facebook

paleobutter published the post Paleo Chocolate & Amaretto Macaroons on Nutrition WOD
  Macaroons The legend of how amaretto liquor was first created is (oh man), so Italian...
Jefferson State CrossFit shared an image on Facebook

Get your teams together now!

CrossFit Anywhere shared a link on Facebook

Let's Go USA!

North State CrossFit shared an image on Facebook

This Friday for Independence Day! we will be having a 10am Class ONLY with childcare. Wear your red, white, and blue and lets start the day off right!!!

CrossFit Redding posted on Facebook

4th of July CrossFit Redding Schedule: We will be running 3 WOD times 8a, 930a, 11a.

Another Level CrossFit posted on Facebook

For anyone who was wondering if the gym was going to be open on Friday the 4th of July..... We will be holding one 9AM class for anyone who wants to come get there WOD in before all the parties and family time start. =)

CrossFit Anywhere shared an image on Facebook

Swim WOD fun with all the kids this morning!

Another Level CrossFit shared an image on Facebook

Make a change in your life today!! Step outside of your normal box and explore something new.

CrossFit Genesis shared a link on Facebook

July 1, 2014 Workout of the Day #workout #crossfit #roseville

Dan Klug published the post Quick and Easy (5-Ingredient) BBQ Sauce on
Finding a relatively “clean” BBQ sauce can often be a more daunting task than the actual...
CrossFit Determination posted on Facebook

Strength: 1a) 4x:40 FLR 1b) 4x 8 pendlay rows WOD: 10-1 reps of Pull ups Power cleans

American River Crossfit posted on Facebook

CORRECTION: Special Hours on Friday, July 4th. 8am Group Class 9am Open Gym

CrossFit Campbell shared a link on Facebook

My fitbit #Fitstats for 6/30/2014: 25,136 steps and 11.2 miles traveled. http://t.co/lGgXoqQWii

CrossFit Campbell shared a link on Facebook

If you're always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you're in? #crossfitcampbell http://t.co/kxFRncZPR7

CrossFit Feather River posted on Facebook

Tuesday Class Schedule ~ > Endurance WOD @ 5:30am, 9am, 4:30pm & 6:30pm > Barbell Club @ 8am & 5:30pm Daycare Hours: 8am-10am & 5:30pm-7:30pm *All of our Tuesday Endurance WOD classes are FREE during the month of July!

emmagatman published the post How CrossFit Causes Injuries on
There’s a worrying trend among CrossFit participants, one that consists of frequent visits to the...
CrossFit CSA posted on Facebook

Strength: (20 minutes; 2-3 to a bar) Klokov Clean Complex * work up to a heavy set of the following complex, and please be certain to perform complex UNBROKEN: - 2X CLEAN PULLS -1X SQUAT CLEAN (hold in bottom of squat for 2 seconds) -1X PUSH PRESS (hold in arc position 2 seconds) -1x PUSH JERK WOD: 3 rounds Run 400m 30 WallBalls 20 MedBall Cleans (full hip extension and full squat every rep!)

CrossFit Valley View shared a link on Facebook

@TabataTimes on Twitter

Watch the latest episode of GPTV