Trigger points of neck pain

In my last article I discussed what myofascial trigger points are, how they form and the type of local and referred pain patterns that they can cause.  In today’s article I will take a look at the causes and pain patterns associated with trigger points in the Levator scapula muscle of the neck (a.k.a. the “stiff neck muscle”).  

The Levator scapula originates in the cervical spine (the neck) and inserts into the top inner corner of the shoulder blade. It functions to stabilize the neck, lift the shoulder blade and rotate the neck to the same side.  The Levator scapula gets its nickname the “stiff neck muscle” from the fact that it can be stiff, rigid and unmovable upon waking, especially if one has spent the night sleeping on their stomach with their head turned.                        

Trigger point hindrance of the Levator scapula is common and easy to recognize.  Levator scapula trigger points will restrict the movement of the neck forcing the individual to turn their entire body instead of their neck when shoulder checking, or turning to speak to others.  Often individuals with trigger points in the Levator scapula will present with the affected shoulder blade raised slightly higher then that of the unaffected side.   

The active trigger point pain pattern of the Levator scapula tends to be the base of the neck where the neck meets the shoulder and along the inner border of the shoulder blade as seen in the photo below.                   

What causes trigger points to develop in the Levator scapula?

  • The head forward neck posture that many individuals sustain during their workday (especially computer work) puts strain on the Levator scapula, causing it to contract to compensate for the forward neck posture.
  • Emotional stress and tension
  • Elevated shoulder posture
  • Holding the phone between the ear and shoulder
  • Sleeping on your stomach with head turned
  • Carrying a heavy bag or purse over one shoulder



The treatment of Levator scapula trigger points is relatively straightforward and typically offers quick relief of both pain and stiffness.

  • Assessment and location of trigger points
  • Release of both active and latent trigger points through a combination of Acupuncture and Massage therapy techniques.
  • Self care education that can include: postural exercises, stretches, heat and/or self -trigger point release techniques.


For questions about neck pain or to book an appointment please contact my office at (250) 860-2212 or visit my website at www.kelownaacupunctureclinic.com


Please stay tuned for my next article (in two weeks) when I discuss what you can expect in your first Acupuncture visit.  

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Ryan Samuels is a Registered Acupuncturist and Chinese Medical Herbalist (R.Ac, R.TCMP) at KLO Chiropractic Centre in Kelowna. He holds a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine diploma, and has a special interest in the treatment of digestive issues, neuropathy, acute & chronic pain, sports injuries, and migraines.  All treatments with Ryan are individualized and designed around your current physical and mental well being. 

Website link:  http://www.kelownaacupunctureclinic.com/

Contact Email:  [email protected] 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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