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Massage Aha!

Professional therapeutic massage therapy in Kansas City, MO by Aaron Harris, BCTMB

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The Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

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The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) is the large muscle in your neck that you can see when you turn your head to the side.

Sternocleidomastoid (SCM)
The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) by itself rotates the face to the opposite side and lifts it towards the ceiling. Paired with the opposite side the muscles flex the head and neck.

This muscle is often responsible for a “crick” in your neck when you’ve “slept wrong.” It can also be injured in accidents and is often involved with whiplash.

The SCM can work alone or in conjunction with the opposite side. Alone, the SCM rotates the face to the opposite side and lifts it towards the ceiling. When working in pairs, the SCMs flex the head and neck.

Common Trigger Points in the sternocleidomastoid.
Trigger points in the SCM (marked by Xs) and the areas of referred pain (blue areas).
Common trigger points in the SCM
Trigger points in the SCM (marked by Xs) and the areas of referred pain (blue areas).

There are common trigger points in the SCM that refer pain to the cheek, forehead, ear and along the orbital ridge. Pain can also be referred to the sternum.

These trigger points can cause postural dizziness as well as headaches.

Massage the SCM

Treatment of the SCM is standard in nearly every massage modality. Deep tissue techniques can treat trigger points. I usually use specific Thai techniques to work on the neck while you are lying on your back. These techniques include range of motion stretches and acupressure holds.

Stretch Your SCM

Two stretches good for targeting the SCM
These two stretches are particularly effective at relieving tension in your SCM.

Work on the sternocleidomastoid can be very relaxing. Some clients experience dizziness or a feeling of lightheadedness when this muscle is being massaged.

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