What is a Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle is a long, thin muscle that runs from the sternum (breastbone) and clavicle (collarbone) to the mastoid process, which is a bony protrusion at the base of the skull. The muscle has two heads, one on each side of the neck, and it is responsible for several important functions in the neck and head.

The sternocleidomastoid muscle is responsible for turning the head from side to side, as well as tilting the head forward and backward. It also helps to lift the head and shoulders when you are lying on your back. Additionally, the SCM muscle is involved in breathing, as it can help to open the airway by pulling the larynx (voice box) upward.

The sternocleidomastoid muscle is a common site for muscle spasms and tension, which can cause pain and discomfort in the neck and head. Stretching and massaging the muscle can help to relieve tension and improve range of motion in the neck. In some cases, physical therapy may be recommended to help manage muscle tension and improve neck function.

Function of the Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

The primary function of the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle is to move the head and neck. Specifically, the SCM muscle is responsible for:

  1. Rotating the head from side to side: When one side of the SCM muscle contracts, it rotates the head in that direction.
  2. Tilting the head forward and backward: The SCM muscle can tilt the head forward and backward by contracting on one side or both sides simultaneously.
  3. Lifting the head and shoulders: When you are lying on your back, the SCM muscle can help to lift the head and shoulders off the ground.

In addition to these movements, the SCM muscle also plays a role in breathing. When the SCM muscle contracts, it can help to open the airway by pulling the larynx (voice box) upward. This can be helpful in situations where the airway is partially blocked, such as when you are sleeping on your back or when you have a cold.

Overall, the sternocleidomastoid muscle is an important muscle in the neck and head that helps to provide mobility and stability in these areas.

Common Issues with a Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

There are several common issues that can affect the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle:

  1. Muscle spasms: The SCM muscle is prone to spasms, which can cause pain and discomfort in the neck and head. Spasms may be triggered by stress, poor posture, or physical strain on the muscle.
  2. Tension headaches: Tension headaches are a common type of headache that can be caused by muscle tension in the neck, including tension in the SCM muscle. Tension headaches may cause a constant, dull pain on both sides of the head, as well as a sensation of pressure or tightness.
  3. Neck pain: The SCM muscle is responsible for several movements in the neck, and problems with the muscle can cause neck pain. Neck pain may be caused by muscle spasms, strain on the muscle, or inflammation in the muscle tissue.
  4. Limited range of motion: If the SCM muscle is tight or inflamed, it can limit your ability to turn your head or tilt your head forward and backward.
  5. Breathing difficulties: In some cases, tension or spasms in the SCM muscle can cause breathing difficulties by partially blocking the airway.

If you are experiencing any of these issues, it may be helpful to consult with a healthcare provider or physical therapist. They can help to diagnose the cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.

How to stretch your Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

Here are a few simple stretches you can try to stretch your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle:

  1. Neck tilt stretch: Sit or stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed. Slowly tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear towards your shoulder. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
  2. Neck rotation stretch: Sit or stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed. Slowly turn your head to one side, bringing your chin towards your shoulder. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
  3. Neck side bend stretch: Sit or stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed. Slowly bend your head to one side, bringing your ear towards your shoulder. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
  4. Neck and shoulder roll: Sit or stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed. Slowly roll your shoulders forward and then backward, making a circular motion. Continue rolling your shoulders for 10-15 reps.

It’s important to stretch slowly and gently, and to stop if you feel any pain or discomfort. If you are unsure of how to stretch your SCM muscle or if you have any underlying health conditions that may be affected by stretching, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider or physical therapist before starting any new exercise routine.

How to Rehab your Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle is a muscle that runs from the base of the skull to the collarbone and is responsible for turning the head from side to side and tilting the head back. If this muscle becomes tight or strained, it can cause neck pain and discomfort. Here are some steps you can take to rehab your SCM muscle:

  1. Stretch the muscle: Gently tilt your head to the side and use your hand to apply pressure to the top of your head to deepen the stretch. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
  2. Use a foam roller: Lay a foam roller on the ground and place the side of your neck on top of it. Roll the foam roller up and down the length of your SCM muscle, applying gentle pressure.
  3. Massage the muscle: Use your fingertips or a massage ball to gently massage the SCM muscle. You can also ask a massage therapist to work on the muscle for you.
  4. Use heat or ice: Applying heat or ice to the muscle can help reduce inflammation and soreness. Try using a heating pad or hot water bottle for heat, or an ice pack or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel for cold therapy.
  5. Engage in neck strengthening exercises: To help prevent future strains, it’s important to strengthen the muscles in your neck. Some exercises you can try include neck extensions, lateral flexion, and rotations.

It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist, before starting any new exercise or rehabilitation program. They can help you develop a plan that’s tailored to your specific needs and can ensure that you’re using proper form to avoid further injury.

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Athlete’s Choice Massage was created to provide consistently excellent rehabilitative services for health-conscious people. Our team is extremely well-trained and they take pride in their work. They are constantly striving to learn and better themselves in their respective fields so that they can help you recover and aid in the maintenance of your well-being.

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