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Where Are the Sternocleidomastoid Muscles? | Sternocleidomastoid Stretch
At Entegra Health, Parkville, we often treat muscular tension associated with the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles. The SCM are a thick band of muscles located either side of the neck, directly behind the ears and mandibles (jaws). During development in utero, the SCM muscles originally form part of the upper trapezius muscles, which later divide into two separate muscle groups. As a result, the SCM muscles are positioned in front of the scalene and upper trapezius muscles; attached superiorly behind the jaw, and inferiorly to the clavicle (collar bone) above the sternum – central to the rib cage.
What is their function?
The SCM muscles are one of the primary muscles involved with rotation movements of the skull, and extension and flexion movements of the neck. An example of the SCM muscles in use include turning your head to perform a head check whilst driving, or looking for cars whilst crossing the road; the SCM muscles are actively engaged many times throughout daily tasks.
Furthermore, as the SCM muscles laterally attach the sides of the neck to the skull, they also support overall movement and stabilization of the neck and head; in conjunction with the scalene muscles. Together, the SCM and scalene muscles also support rib cage function during respiration, and bending and tilting movements of the neck.
What tension related problems can occur here?
At Entegra Health Parkville, tension commonly observed during Remedial Massage consultations relating to the SCM muscles, are often associated with nearby lateral supportive muscular structures of the neck and consequently tension; including the Temporo Mandibular Jaw (TMJ) area, Scalenes, Upper Trapezius muscles and the base of the skull (Occipital muscles).
Tension commonly occurring in these areas may result in increased tension headaches, migraines and jaw tension, resulting in clicking and mis-alignment of the upper and lower jaws. Another common dysfunction of the SCM muscles may include Torticollis; a condition which occurs when one side of the head is tilted due to uneven tension in one side of the SCM muscles. This condition may be present from birth, or occur over time.
Tension surrounding the spinous processes of the neck and the SCM may also contribute to nerve related conditions, including Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). Common symptoms that may be attributed to TOS may include: tingling and/or numbness in the hands or fingers, reduced range of movement and/or frozen shoulder conditions due to nerve impingement by surrounding shoulder structures and reduced blood circulation.
How Can I Reduce Muscular Tension in These Areas? | Sternocleidomastoid Stretch
Stretches to lengthen the sides and front of the neck (lateral and anterior), can significantly assist in the reduction of tension in the SCM muscles. For example, ear to shoulder stretches, chin raise stretches and shoulder rolls.
Conditions such as Torticollis may also benefit from stretches to initially release tension in tight SCM muscles, followed by strengthening exercises to increase stabilization to support weak SCM and surrounding neck muscles. Regular Remedial Massage in conjunction with strengthening exercises, is also an effective way to support muscular tension and associated stress levels.
For further information regarding Remedial Massage, or other treatment options, please contact us via email. Access to free online resources including stretch and exercise videos can be found on our website.