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Sternocleidomastoid Muscle and Stress: How Tension Affects Your Body

Updated: Jan 21

Looking for relief from tension and pain in the neck, shoulders, or upper back?

Massage therapy can be an effective solution to promote relaxation and release tightness in the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle.

The SCM muscle is a vital muscle in the neck responsible for head rotation and neck flexion. However, when tension or adhesions occur in this muscle, it can lead to discomfort or pain and limit the range of motion in the neck. Here's how I alleviate issues related to tightness or adhesions in the SCM muscle.

During a massage session, I will use various techniques, such as trigger point therapy, myofascial release, and Swedish massage, to target the SCM muscle's tension and promote relaxation.


Additionally, palpation of the SCM muscles will also improve blood flow and oxygenation in the affected areas, promoting relaxation, healing, and reducing inflammation.

I've had patients tell me of their intense referral pains which will occur in several areas, depending on the areas of tension in the muscle.

Common referral pain areas for the SCM muscle include:

  • The head and face: The top of the head, behind the eyes, or in the jaw and teeth.

  • The neck and shoulders: The neck, shoulders, and upper back.

  • The arm and hand: In some cases, trigger points can refer pain down the arm and into the hand, often mimicking symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome!


Here's why this muscle so important.

Not only does this special muscle cause:

  • pain or discomfort in the neck

  • headaches

  • eye pain

  • shoulder pain

  • limited range of motion in the neck

It is also connected to your jaw pain!

That's right! Jaw pain caused by tension in the SCM muscle is often mistaken for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. If you read my article last week on What is a TMJ Massage Treatment? I wrote how holding your head forward while looking at a computer all day strains the muscles of your face and neck?



Did you know there's a direct connection between the SCM fascia and the top of your toes? In Thomas Myers research Anatomy Trains Myofascial Meridians, he outlines a deep understanding of the 'Superficial front Line Fascia' as a whole, that gives clear insights into neck issues that you cannot get from considering just the neck alone. Are you an anatomy enthusiast like myself? Then I recommend purchasing this book and really studying it front to back. Here's the Amazon link.


Here's why I'm treating my patients SCM

In addition to trigger point palpation, I employ a holistic approach to addressing neck issues that stem from tight sternocleidomastoid muscles. This involves incorporating a series of gentle stretches designed to release tension in your "Superficial Front Line" fascia, promoting increased flexibility and range of motion. This technique involves stretching your entire front body, from your toes to your quads, through deep back bends, shoulder openers, and neck stretches. The goal is to provide more length and relief from tension in the affected area.

Stretching the entire front body, including the hips, thighs, and abdomen, can improve overall posture, which can also help alleviate neck pain. Finally, stretching can increase blood flow and circulation, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the affected area, promoting healing and reducing inflammation.


Do you know Dr. Tera Lanier from Suncoast Acupuncture in Sarasota?

If you are experiencing neck and head pain, and are looking for a natural approach to address the root cause of your symptoms, you may want to consider Chinese medicine.

In this ancient practice, the body is seen as a complex network of interconnected meridians through which the flow of Qi (energy) and blood can become blocked, leading to pain and other symptoms.

I personally recommend Dr. Tera Lanier because she can help balance your energy in the best way that will give you great results. For Ex: The Gallbladder meridian (also located along the SCM) is associated with the Liver meridian, which in Chinese medicine is closely linked to emotions such as anger and stress. Treating your SCM muscle through Chinese medicine offers a holistic approach to addressing neck and head pain that considers the body as a whole, rather than just treating symptoms. By promoting the smooth flow of Qi and blood along the Gallbladder meridian, treating the SCM muscle can help to balance the Liver meridian and provide relief from stress and anxiety. Want to see how she can help you?

Contact her here.

- Let her know I sent you. I'd appreciate that!


With me so far? OK, good!

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the important role that the sternocleidomastoid muscle plays in neck pain and tension, and how massage therapy can be an effective treatment option. If you are experiencing symptoms related to this muscle or are interested in incorporating massage therapy into your wellness routine, please don't hesitate to contact me to schedule an appointment.

Sternocleidomastoid Muscle and Stress Relief

Together, we can work to alleviate your pain and improve your overall health and well-being.

I look forward to helping you feel your best.

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