Muscle of the Month- Sternocleidomastoid (SCM)
This commonly ignored muscle has the tendency to become over used with the increase of technology use. Hand held devices, computer usage and poor reading posture often cause flexion of the neck for extended periods of time. This type of media use also encourages the person to push the neck towards the front of the body causing imbalance in the normal use of the neck.
The Jugular Vein can be seen pulsing over this muscle on each side of the neck. Which originates or attaches to the sternum and clavicle aka collar bone and move up the neck and inserts to the mastoid process and temporal bone in the skull located below the area of the ear. Massage therapist must take special caution avoiding massaging the Jugular Vein when massaging this muscle.
Sternocleidomastoid muscles is often a culprit in shoulder and neck pain. Often neck muscle tightness is interpreted as headache and/or shoulder tightness as many neck muscles connect (insert and originate) in the areas of head and shoulders.
These muscles can also be the cause of discomfort at the base of the skull due to habitual shortening or contracting of the muscle. It is easily manipulated and relieved with self massage and the benefits of massage can be felt immediately after relaxing this muscle.
Be sure to speak with an experienced Massage Therapist or Physical Therapist to learn how to stretch and strengthen these muscles to help relieve neck and shoulder tension.
Sternocleidomastoid are a pair muscles (seen in the picture below) helps with:
Neck Flexion – chin towards neck motions.
Unilateral Neck Rotation – turning head to the opposite side.
UniLateral Flexion – sideways movement of the neck to the same side.
Assist in Inhalation- helps to elevate the rib cage.
**Picture Credits: Trail Guide to the Body, Third Edition by Andrew Biel, LMT Illustrations by Robin Dorn, LMT
For more anatomical information on Sternocleidomastoid muscle see the YouTube link below.
Ayoola Toyer, LMT