Sternocleido-what? Part 2 of 4

By Sharon Truelove

Daily stress can accumulate and hold in the neck area and escalate to the point of restricting out daily activities.  Let us continue our discussion from Part 1 of 4 to see how we can help decrease the tension  and take a quick review of Sternocleidomastoid  before we continue to Part 2 of 4.

The Sternocleidomastoid is palpated easily.  It attaches at the sternum, the clavicle and the mastoid process which is behind the ear. It allows the head to turn and also helps to maintain stability of the head when the body is in movement.

Trigger points in SCM, can cause a wide variety of symptoms that are often misdiagnosed. We studied Balance problems in Part 1. In Part 2, we discuss referred pain.

Even though trigger points in SCM may be tender, they won’t usually cause pain in the SCM itself. Swollen lymphs usually get the blame when SCM trigger points are misidentified. These particular trigger points may actually present with no pain, but the stiffness it may cause can prompt leaning the head to one side.

When trigger points are located in the sternal branch they may exhibit as deep eye pain, tongue pain upon swallowing, headaches over the eye, behind the ear, and on top of the head and may also play a role in TMJ pain felt in the jaw muscles or the back of the neck. Frontal headaches are a sign of SCM trigger points.

Some rare referrals are: SCM pain being  referred down to the top of the breastbone,  pain felt in the side of the face imitating “trigeminal neuralgia”, or pain in the cheek being taken for sinusitis.

The clavicular branch may produce deep earache and toothache of the back molars.

To massage the clavicular branch of SCM first locate it by turning your head to one side. While looking in a mirror, firmly grasp that cable of muscle that pops up between your fingers and thumb and knead it. Spend only a couple of minutes on each side daily. Don’t massage if you feel a pulse, this is probably the carotid pulse.


Your homework:

1. Locate your own SCM and see if there are any tender spots. If so, massage them out and report your findings.

2. Find someone with tender or trigger points in their SCM and help them feel better via massage and report you findings.

17 thoughts on “Sternocleido-what? Part 2 of 4”

  1. I don’t have any issues there and could not find anyone around who has this problem but I tried the technique on myself and three people anyways. They thought it was awkward, since most people are not used to having their anterior neck handled that way, but we all agree it felt very nice.

  2. Interesting. I didn’t know that lymph nodes get blamed for SCM trigger points. After working on my SCMs for a bit, I have decided that a light touch is better when dealing with them. Too much pressure seems to make them worse.

  3. My left SCM was more tender then the right. I held the left side about 12 seconds and pain started to actually release. Thank God for massage!

  4. I tried on myself and I can say I felt a little uncomfortable, but I could find a trigger point and every time I did it, I felt a kind of relieve. I will have to practice more. My kids didn’t like me to hold their SCM that way, but I massaged for a while and they felt a difference.

  5. I actually do have some issues going on with my SCM. I did this on myself and although it felt awkward I did feel some relief after holding it for about 15 seconds. Thanks Sharon! I absolutely love these blogs! Very Helpful!

  6. I didn’t locate any trigger points on myself or roommate and it was extremely akaward palpating the anterior neck.

  7. I dont have this problem but i did try it on myself. It was uncomfortable but it did kinda help i guess. : ) Good to know if i ever need to do it!

  8. I couldn’t find any problems with my SCM but it’s good to know just in case i do need it one day or if I know someone else that might need it!

  9. I have had problems with my neck as well as my jaw area, and at times horrible headaches. The other day my neck was pretty sore and tender to the touch, and just stretching didn’t seem to help. After applying these techniques, there was still pain, but it was considerably less in intensity.

  10. My SCM is usually tender on the right side. I think its the way I sleep. I tried this on me and it was uncomfortable but I hung it out and once it was released it did feel better.

  11. I have trouble with my SCM. Every once in a while it will pop when I yawn and it doesn’t feel good at all. SO I have done the trigger points and found out that I do have them with my opcipitals and scalens. Thanks Sharon

  12. I don’t have any tender spots right now but I palpate my scm alot now. For some crazy reason I just like to palpate it when I am not doing anything I guess I do it out of habit since part 1 of this blog cause I sleep really messed up. The techniques do work.

  13. Both sides of my SCM are usually tight but I try to hold with pressure on the tender spots until I feel it loosen. This always feels good to me. Tonight I’m going to do this to my mom and see what she thinks about it because she has alot of neck issues and I think this is where the problem is coming from.

  14. my scm has always bothered me on my left side. I did try this @ it was a tender area to the touch. Car wreck in 2010 maybe why. My sister did just fine

  15. Both sides of my SCM are sore. I really need to do some stretches today and work out the soreness. I have been surprised how many clients I have had this week whose necks are hurting them. The problem area is usually their sternocleidomastoid so I always perform neck stretches for them to help release tension.

  16. I found the scm on my left side was more tender then my right. It was uncomfortable at first but it got better the more I did it. I also did my cousin scm and his was the opposite of mines, his right side was tenderer than his Left he said it felt uncomfortable but it worked.

  17. If you truly find the SCM and work on the area, your clients will think you are a magician! I usually leave the neck area for last, leaving them feeling like jello. Alot of facial pain can be relieved by working on this area.