3-Minute Muscles: Sternocleidomastoid (SCM)

Jul 13 · 1 min read

The next muscle we will discuss in the Three Minute Muscles series is the Sternocleidomastoid. Say that three times fast, or we'll just call it SCM for short. It originates behind your ears on either side, running down the front of your neck in a kind of “V” shape around your throat organs and ending on your collarbone and the top of your sternum (chest plate). It is the biggest muscle in the front of your neck, and the most superficial, meaning closest to your skin.

There are many things that can agitate this muscle, including forward head posture, poor posture in general, leaning into your screens too much, something traumatic happening to your neck like whiplash, poor mechanics with weightlifting or swimming, and even things like anxiety, stress, and hyperventilation syndrome.

When it does hurt, you may begin to feel pain around the neck, then it’ll spread to your head, specifically the forehead just above your eyebrows, and it may even spread more into your face, as well. You’ll experience decreased mobility in the neck, and in more extreme cases, may develop something called “Sternocleidomastoid Syndrome,” which can go on to cause nausea and vertigo. (If you have nausea or vertigo, check-in with your doctor to make sure it’s nothing more serious).

The best way to release this muscle is a little self-massage and a stretch...

1. The SCM Self-Massage

In this example, I'll be working on my left SCM (go ahead and mirror these pictures).

First, tilt your head to the left as if you're trying to press your ear to your shoulder.

Using the edge of your pointer finger and thumb, gently grab the SCM. It's going to be the chord-like muscle that protrudes when your head is tilted.

Then, rub it side to side between your fingers. The fibers go up and down, so you'll want the friction to be going across the muscle fibers as you tease them apart.

Photo by my reluctant husband who wants you to know he is not a photographer.

2. The SCM Stretch

After you've given your SCM a good massage, give it a stretch.

To keep at that left side SCM, tilt your head to your right shoulder (opposite as before) then look up. Mirror the picture below for an example!

Happy Healing!

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