Although the levator scapula muscle is surrounded with the deep cervical fascia as a single muscle unit, the muscle can be separated into a number of muscle slips at the proximal cervical attachment. Originally the muscle was described as having 3 muscle slips at its cervical origin. More recent textbook reports have now adopted 4 slips of origin as normal. Each muscle slip coming from a different cervical vertebra. Levator scapulae muscles are important in myofascial pain syndrome, which is one of the leading causes of neck- and shoulder pain. Surgically it can also be used to overcome trapezius muscle paralysis. Anatomical variations of the levator scapulae are important and therefore clinically relevant. With this cadaveric study, we have investigated the morphometric differences in 46 levator scapulae muscles from 23 cadavers. Measurements of the proximal- and distal attachments and the total length of the muscles were taken. Three muscle slips at the origin were reported in 7 cases. Four slips of origin were reported in 28 cases. Five slips of origin were reported in 10 cases and the first case of six muscle slips of origin was reported in one cadaver in this study. Many differences were also observed between the muscles on the two sides.
Prof. Jan H. T. Smit Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia