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A Simple Shoulder Fix

Written on December 18, 2007 at 6:35 pm, by Eric Cressey

For those of you with testy shoulders, give this levator scapulae stretch a try:

To stretch the right levator scapulae, put your right hand behind your back as if you’re getting handcuffed, then look down toward your left foot while pulling your head in that same direction with the left hand. You’ll feel a stretch along the right side of the back of your neck.

I’ve seen a lot of people who get some immediate short-term relief simply from stretching out the levator scapulae. Regardless of the shoulder problem, scapular upward rotation is almost always limited or occurs with the wrong muscle firing patterns. The serratus anterior, lower traps, and upper traps work together to upwardly rotate the scapula, and when they’re weak and combined with tightness in the downward rotators, we get into trouble. What are the downward rotators? Pec minor, rhomboids, and, you guessed it, levator scapulae.

The only problem is that it’s tough to stretch out rhomboids and pec minor on your own; they actually respond better to soft tissue work. You can get right on levator scapulae, though.

Give it a shot (15s/side) and see for yourself.

Of course, an adequate corrective exercise program is going to address a host of other factors such as thoracic mobility and scapular stability.

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