Did you know that in between visits to your massage therapist you can roll out your knots and compress trigger points with a tennis ball? Not as great as an actual massage, but works in a pinch. Even my doggie likes to roll on a tennis ball. Here she is rolling out her lumbar area.
If there is one muscle that is both the bane and boon of a massage therapist’s existence it has to be the Levator Scapulae. Affectionately known as “Darth Levator” by some of us, it is the scourge of the muscular universe. Just like the Dark Lord of the Sith was prone to strangulation, Darth Levator will strangle itself and cause all kinds of trouble for its human host.
Most everyone has experienced pain or a “knot” in their shoulders or a stiff neck that just didn’t respond well to any attempts to loosen it. In fact 80% of my clients come in complaining of some sort of neck and shoulder pain. Most people think it’s their “traps” or trapezius muscles- which also may be tight-but most likely it is the work of Darth Levator.
Levator Scapulae (as the name suggests to any Latin speaking folks) elevates the Scapula. You have two scapulae, commonly known as the shoulder blades and whether you realize it or not you probably spend a lot of time with your shoulders up around your ears as you hunch over your desk, computer, cell phone, book, dinner…well you get the idea. All this hunching and looking down overworks poor Levator and he doesn’t like doing a lot of work. He believes he should have minions to do all his work for him, and this makes him very, very cranky.
Levator Scapulae originates at the transverse processes of cervical vertebra one through four (C-1~C-4) and inserts at the superior medial border of the scapula. One of the muscles within the floor of the posterior triangle of the neck, the superior part of levator scapula is covered by sternocleidomastoid and its inferior part by the trapezius. It is bounded in front by the scalenus medius and behind by splenius cervicis.
Because it lies deeper to most of these muscles and its tendons attach somewhat underneath the scapula it is not easy to access and treat on your own. It also has a tendency to twist (strangle) or braid up on itself, as well as becoming stuck to other muscles, such as the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and the scalene muscle group. This and the fact the it also laterally flexes the neck (people that hold their phone in the crook of their neck I'm talking to you) is the reason why Darth Levator is the most likely suspect for a “crick” in said neck.
As a member of the rebel alliance against Darth Levator I have sworn an oath to protect my clients from Darth Levator using the force of knowledge and skill with my thumbs. No light saber needed!