Scapular elevation

Last revised by Assoc Prof Craig Hacking on 07 Oct 2021

Scapular elevation refers to the cranial motion of the scapula (scapulothoracic joint), commonly described as “shrugging the shoulders”. This movement is facilitated by several muscles and it is useful to distinguish these as primary movers and stabilizers. It is important to note that no one movement of the scapula occurs in isolation and no individual muscle exerts a singular action on the scapula. In addition, movement of the clavicle also aids scapular motion by virtue of its articulation with the scapula as part of the pectoral girdle. The opposite movement is scapular depression.

Primary movers
  • trapezius – generates elevation through its upper fibers by virtue of its attachment to the acromion and spine of the scapula, and the lateral clavicle
  • levator scapulae - works with trapezius to elevate the scapula (specifically, it elevates the superior angle of the scapula). Also prevents lateral rotation of scapula (i.e. a medial rotator)
  • rhomboideus major and minor – minor action through elevation of the medial border of the scapula. They also prevent lateral rotation of scapula.
Stabilizers
  • pectoralis minor – prevents lateral rotation exerted by trapezius
  • subclavius – exerts stabilizing action by preventing rotation of the clavicle 1,2

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: Scapulothoracic joint movements
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 2: Muscles that position that pectoral girdle (diagram)
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