Active Body Physiotherapy

Neck Injuries and Triathlon

Written on the 11 December 2013 by Active Body Physiotherapy

It is not uncommon for triathletes to experience neck pain, especially whilst out on the bike for a long period of time. Pain in the neck region can be a result of numerous things including poor bike set-up, angle and position of aerobars, underlying neck and shoulder conditions, and weakness of the postural and stabilising muscles in the neck and thoracic region. One of these conditions is known as Levator Scapulae syndrome and, when present, can make for a very uncomfortable day in the saddle.

Levator Scapulae Syndrome

What Is It?

Levator scapulae syndrome refers to pain arising from the levator scapulae muscle where it attaches to the top of the shoulder blade in the upper back.

How Does It Happen?

Levator scapulae syndrome results from prolonged overstretching of the levator scapulae muscle. This can occur if you have poor posture of your shoulders. For example, when sitting hunched over with your shoulders rounded - like you would when both sitting up and in the aero position on the bike. This stretches the levator scapulae muscle and, when performed over a long period of time, can result in inflammation and pain within the muscle.

How Does It Feel?

Levator scapulae syndrome produves pain which is felt in the upper back. This is most often felt where the muscle attaches to the top of the shoulder blade. However, it may also be felt in the neck, over the top of the shoulder or between the shoulder blades. This pain may disappear quickly when heat (ie. a hot shower) is applied over the shoulder blade.

What Should You Do?

If you have or suspect you have levator scapulae syndrome, you should seek the assistance of a sports medicine professional / physiotherapist.

What Shouldn't You Do?

If you have or suspect you have levator scapulae syndrome, you shouldn't ignore the problem. Your pain may improve if you apply heat over the shoulder or massage the sore area; however, unless the cause of the problem is identified and naddressed the pain will continue to returnand may get progressively worse.

Could There Be Any Long Term Effects?

Levator scapulae syndrome does not produce any long term effects, as long as it is accurately diagnosed and appropriately treated.


The assistance of a Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist is important in the treatment of levator scapulae syndrome. Initially, we can assist in diagnosing the problem and the reason why you developed it. Following this, the Physiotherapist / Exercise Physiologist will be able to determine an appropriate treatment plan to reduce your painand reduce the chance of it returning. This may involve massage, stretching and strengthening exercises, and exercises designed to improve your posture.

The team at Active Body is more than happy to help you with any questions, treatment or rehabilitation you require regarding levator scapulae syndrome, or any other concerns or injuries you may currently have.

Author:Active Body Physiotherapy

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