Sternocleido-what? Part 4 of 4

By Sharon Truelove

In the previous 3 parts of our Sternocleidomastoid series of 4, we have discussed referred pain, balance problems, and visual disturbances. In part 4, we will discuss systemic symptoms.

The Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) attachments are located at the base of the neck and behind the ears; at the sternum, the clavicle and the mastoid process.  SCM allows the head to turn and also helps maintain stability of the head when the body is in movement.  Because of the wide variety of duties SCM is involved in, trigger points are often misdiagnosed.

Systemic problems  affect an entire body system or region of the body. The problems can in turn affect the entire body. Holding the head in a position that causes the SCM to be in a continual contracted state that distorts posture is a sure set up for systemic problems.

Because SCM’s auxiliary function is to aid in forced inspiration, holding a contorted posture encourages shallow breathing. This can be a set up for chronic trigger points which can cause a domino effect by generating excess mucus in the sinuses, nasal cavities and throat. If you suffer from sinus congestion, sinus drainage, phlegm in the throat, chronic cough, constant hay fever or cold symptoms; it may actually be caused from mainting an unnatural posture of SCM.
Your homework:

1. Do you suspect that you might suffer from the above systemic trigger point symptoms?

2. Using the picture to the left, locate your own SCM. With finger tips explore both sides of the notch at the base of your neck. When you find tender spots in the sternal and/or clavicle branches, gently cross-fiber massage them for 30 seconds or until the tenderness lessens. Report your findings.

3. On someone else, locate tender or trigger points in their SCM and massage their SCM gently until the tissue softens and compare your findings with what you found concerning your own trigger points.

18 thoughts on “Sternocleido-what? Part 4 of 4”

  1. I do have allergies with excess mucous, so I worked on my SCMs. It did not seem to make a huge difference or anything, but they do feel more relaxed now.

  2. 1. No , I attempt to always keep my body in a proper posture.

    2. After exploring the base of my neck on both sides i did not feel any tenderness.

    3.I found several tender points on both sides at the base of my wife’s neck. after about 20 seconds of massaging i noticed it began to loosen even though my wife did not feel much of a difference.

  3. Well it wasn’t hard to find the SCM it is very large. I did find a few tendre areas on my own SCM on both sides. I can’t help but wonder if that is why I have trouble breathing at night. I also found the SCM on my husband, whom loves it when I use the little techniques on him, and alos found tender spots on his he said his nasal cavity cleared up shortly after massaging him.

  4. I definitely have a sore Sternocleidomastoid. I found two trigger points, one a lot worse than the other. I relieved the smaller trigger point with any problems but am having a trouble with the larger one. I did some cross fiber on it for about 45 seconds. I think I will just keep doing this until i get some relief. Thanks Sharon!

  5. I tried this on myself first and did the left side. I couldn’t tell much difference on either side of the notch. Then I did my right side and felt the pressure all the way up under my ear and back where the base of my skull is. I also felt some pressure in my jawline as I did this. I tried this on Paula and we found that she didn’t have the discomfort or sensitivity like I experienced. I wonder if this sensitivity has anything to do with the fact that the right side of my throat and the area just under my ear behind the jawline, get very tender or sore when I have a cold or sinus problems?

  6. I found a tender spot on my SCM on the Clavicle branch as well as one in the same spot on my partner. Her tender spot did not take as long to subside as mine did. We both do a lot of sitting at desks or in front of computers and don’t have the best posture. While hers is better than mine, she still doesn’t keep her neck in the proper position.

  7. The left side of my neck has a lot of tension compared to the right do to a strain. I did try working massaging and working on the trigger points and it did not help. I worked on my sister who has severe allergy’s. It did lesson on her compared to me. She felt less tense. We both of course spend a lot of time driving. I do wear a neck brace which helps, and since starting school if I notice my self not sitting properly at the computer I do try to correct my posture. Also try to have better body mechanics while giving a massage.

  8. I have been suffering from cold symptoms for a few weeks. When I massaged my SCM I found that it was really tense. It wasn’t necessarily tender it was just tense. After massaging it for a few minutes and loosening it up I found that my nasal passages had cleared up a little bit. I palpated my friends SCM and found that his was tense as well and he was tender behind his ears. He has been suffering from allergies and he said the cross-fiber massage seemed to help. This is a great tool to help clear sinuses and I am exited to learn more about how massage can help other issues in the body.

  9. Yes, I do suffer from the systemic trigger point symptoms. My sinuses tend to be congested, have phlegm in my throat, and a chronic cough. When I first started using the cross-fiber technique on my SCM, it was a bit tender and knotted. But after I massaged the area for 30 seconds, it relieved some of the pressure, but not all. When I massaged another peron’s trigger points in their SCM, I found them to not be as tender or tight as mine. This tells me that I need to stop positioning my SCM unnaturally!

  10. Finding my own SCM was a bit difficult. I found it easier when I lied down. My SCM was very tight. As I was moving along with my fingers, I couldn’t find many tender spots, until I got about midway down and oh man it was so tender. I did a cross fiber massage about 3 times, after doing it once and then coming back to that spot, and it released some of the tension and feels much better. The next day I did this finger crawling again, and that spot was a little sore, but the area above and below it was now tender. I found this to be a good area to massage to relieve some tightness and pain in the neck. Finding the SCM on someone else was a bit easier. The person I tried this on thought the their SCM was very tight on both sides. However I thought their right side was tighter than the left. I found that both of our right sides were more tender than the left. This person lifts heavy objects and does more computer work than I do, and found their SCM to have more tender spots than me. I am not sure if this is from the work type or maybe the way they sleep. They wanted a deeper massage than I gave myself. We were both sore the next day from massaging the area. Not sure if that is because we broken up tight areas, or if I massaged the area to deep. Interesting!

  11. I don’t think I have the symptoms to this. I don’t really have a lot of neck pain at all. My only complaint would be that it gets tight occasionally. I didn’t have any tender spots to work on. While doing this to someone else she did have a couple of tender spots. Her’s seemed to be tighter, where as mine were more soft. I worked on those spots and she said she didn’t feel as stiff.

  12. I have a pretty tense SCM almost all the time. I am pretty sure it is from an old injury. I don’t seem to have any problems with the stated trigger points, but the technique did help alleviate some the pain associated with the muscle always being tense.

  13. my scm stay pretty relaxed for the most part. Although last week it was acting up and so I did remember these techniques from previous blogs which did help!

  14. i never would have thought that the way i hold my head could be what causes my phlegm problem.

  15. I did not realize that bad posture could lead to so much.
    I get migraines and have had lots of sinus infections this passed year never thought it may be caused by posture. I will now try to sit up straight and try to have better posture.

  16. I found out that my side right was more tender than my left. When I crossed fiber technique it relieved my tender spots. I tried this on my cousin she thought it was cool that I could find it and relieve her tender spots.

  17. I tried this and I didn’t have any symptoms of systemic trigger points. I am going to try this on a few other people to see someone does.