Neck: The Levator Scapula and The Scalenes
The Levator Scapula is a muscle that runs from the inside top of the shoulder blade to the side of the neck. It helps to lift the shoulder blade and bend the neck. As such, it is a muscle that tends to get tight and overworked as a result of prolonged computer use and general wear and tear.
Option 1: To stretch Levator Scapula, first depress the shoulder on the side you wish to stretch, then look down and away (at about 45 degrees) from the side you have held down. (nose to armpit)
More Advanced Option 2: If you find that this does not stretch enough, then you can use the hand opposite side being stretched to gently pull on the back of your head. Additionally, bringing the arm of the side that is being stretched up behind your back rotated the shoulder blade and further stretches the muscle.
The Scalenes are a group of muscles that reside at the sides of the neck. They help to tilt the head and can aid in breathing. Similarly to the Levator Scapula, they become aggravated with prolonged periods of stress (which activates our secondary breathing muscles) and “Head Forward” postures.
Option 1: Nose to Armpit – To stretch the Scalenes, first, depress the shoulder on the side you wish to stretch, then, tilt the head away from that side. This will target the whole group of muscles but with a emphasis on the back portion of the muscle group. To shift the emphasis forward, once you have your head tilted, look up very slightly.
More Advanced Option 2: To increase the intensity of the stretch you can either sit on the hand of the depressed shoulder or actively pull your shoulder down with the arm of the side being stretched on the side of a chair.
NOTE: As with all stretches, do not perform if the movement is painful. First warm up the neck with gentle neck rolls to increase the range of motion, or allow the warm water of the shower to prepare the tissue. You can hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, repeating 3 times.