Stretching position can affect levator scapular muscle activity, length, and cervical range of motion in people with a shortened levator scapulae

Phys Ther Sport. 2017 Jul;26:13-19. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2017.04.001. Epub 2017 Apr 4.


Objectives: Levator scapulae (LS) muscle stretching exercises are a common method of lengthening a shortened muscle; however, the appropriate stretching position for lengthening the LS in people with a shortened LS remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of different stretching exercise positions on the LS and introduce effective stretching exercise methods to clinicians.

Participants: Twenty-four university students (12 men, 12 women) with a shortened LS were recruited.

Methods: LS muscle activity, LS index (LSI), and cervical range of motion (ROM) were measured pre (baseline) and post three different stretching exercise positions (sitting, quadruped, and prone).

Results: The LSI and cervical ROM exceeded the minimal detectable change and had significant changes. The LSI was greater in the sitting position than at the baseline (p = 0.01), quadruped position (p < 0.01); the LSI in the prone position presented a higher increase than the quadruped position (p = 0.01). The cervical ROM increased in the sitting position when compared to the baseline (p < 0.01) and quadruped position (p < 0.01).

Conclusions: Stretching the LS in the sitting position was the most effective exercise for improving LS muscle length and cervical ROM.

Keywords: Electromyography; Levator scapulae; Muscle stretching exercises; Neck.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises / methods*
  • Neck / physiology*
  • Posture
  • Prone Position
  • Range of Motion, Articular*
  • Superficial Back Muscles / pathology*
  • Young Adult