The SCM is a paired muscle in the upper neck starting from the back of the ear and ends at the collar bone. It helps us flex and rotate our head, and is a visible muscle on the front of the neck.
Its anatomical name is a bit of a mouthful … Sternocleidomastoid, “Sterno-” comes from its attachment at the Sternum, “Cleido” – is another name for our collar bone (another attachment of this muscle) and “Mastoid”- is where the muscle originates from. Interesting fact: where the SCM attaches at the collar bone, the size of this attachment can vary on everyone! In some people its wider (can get up to 8 kms!) or smaller (2-3cms)! When this muscle is tight and aggravated it will bring the head forward. Placing the head into an abnormal forward position, placing stress on the cervical spine and surrounding muscles. If your head is properly aligned on top of your shoulders, then the head is properly supported and the neck muscles are working efficiently. Bringing this forward increases the weight of the head which equals more stress the the cervical area, creating tension headaches and trigger points. Another injury that affects the SCM is wryneck, where the SCM muscle spasms and becomes painful. Many of my clients present to me with this condition, its becoming very common! Mainly because activities such as working on a computer, texting on our phones, driving, cooking and even bending down to tie our shoe laces can cause this abnormal forward head posture.
Can you believe there’s 7 trigger points in this muscle!? All long this muscle is where the trigger points live, so its pretty much just a home of trigger points! SCM trigger points can cause a range of different symptoms such as sinus pain, visual disturbances, fainting and even vertigo. These SCM trigger points refer from the neck up to the side of the face, back of the head and even up into the forehead, hence the feeling of headaches!
Massage is great to help relieve the trigger point pain that the SCM refers. Your massage therapist will do many different techniques such as Swedish massage, trigger pointing, traction and active releases. Even thought it is a painful muscle to release, it feels absolutely amazing afterwards!
Here’s a stretch you can do at home or at work to help keep your SCM’s trigger points nice and happy!
- Place your hand over your collar bone
- Use your other hand to cover the hand on the collar bone
- Tilt your head backwards (you should feel a slight stretch already)
- Now, turn your head in the opposite direction to which your holding
- Hold this position for 5 secs and return to neutral
- Repeat this 5-6 times to make you SCM nice and happy!
Head over to my instagram @ejbmuscletherapy to see a video of this stretch being performed.