Remove Sternocleidomastoid Trigger Points

Paul Pudhnum
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The above video is about releasing sternoceidomastoid (SCM) trigger points in your neck.

The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) is a large muscle that lies in front and to the side of the neck (see Figure).  It attaches to the sternum (sterno-) and the clavicle (-cleido-) just below the bony bump underneath your earlobe (-mastoid).

The function of the SCM is to tilt and turn your head to the side and to control the backward and forward motion of the head.  There are typically four trigger points along the sternocleidomastoid (SCM), although you might have more or less.  The size and the intensity of trigger points are individual to you, so the trigger-point diagrams are to be used as a guide to help you discover your body.

sternocleinomastoid (scm) trigger points

Figure:  The SCM on the right side of the neck showing four possible trigger points in yellow.

Daily activities such as looking at a computer/TV off to the side and looking downward at a cell phone, tablet, or laptop will add to the stress placed on the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle.  Sports such as tennis, wrestling, cycling (race), volleyball, swimming, billiards, golf, skiing/snowboarding, yoga, and football will cause you to get trigger points in the sternocleidomastoid (SCM).  In general, sports that repeatedly combine speed and force will definitely cause issues now or in the future.

Like the levator scapulae and trapezius, this muscle is frequently overloaded.  Additions of poor posture and diet exacerbates issues/pain in the neck area.

The pain commonly associated with sternocleidomastoid (SCM) trigger points is referred to the forehead and not to the neck.  The symptoms range from eye pain, tongue pain when swallowing, balance problems, and nausea to headaches over the eye region and visual issues.

You can release SCM trigger points yourself using your hands or a tool such as the TP BuddieRX.  First find your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle on the left side of your neck by turning your head to the right and dropping your right ear to your right shoulder.  You’ll see your SCM on the left side of your neck become more visible.

Using Hands–  Manual therapy or trigger point therapy is easy to do on the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) using your hands because the muscle is very superficial and visible.  A pinch method works by taking your index finger and thumb to pinch and massage the length of the muscle.  Be careful, however, since the repetitive use of your fingers can damage the delicate joints of the hand.  Especially after middle age, degenerative processes leave the hands more vulnerable to injury, and it is well known that injury can be a precursor to arthritis.  The TP BuddieRx was designed as a finger and self-massage aid to help prevent that.

Using the TP BuddieRx – Take your right hand and feel along the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) on the left side of your neck to get a sense of where it is, the size, and where any trigger points or muscle knots may be along the length of it.  The correct hand placement for the TP BuddieRx to release the left sternocleidomastoid (SCM) is to place your right-hand on S2.  Place the left hand on the C-curve and position it over the SCM.  If you don’t know where the trigger points are located, you can simply run the end of the of the C-curve (Point 2) over the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) starting from the sternum all the way up to the bony bump underneath the ear, or mastoid.  There will be sore spots (i.e. trigger points). When you feel one, switch to your hand for a moment to gauge what your body is telling you.  When you palpate a sore spot, you’ll likely be able to tell if it is a muscle knot (which is just a temporary unreleased contraction of a muscle) or a trigger point (which is referring pain to other parts).  Switch back to the TP BuddieRx, apply gentle pressure for several seconds, then use small up and down motions to dissipate the trigger point.

It is always a good idea to stretch after completing any manual therapy or trigger point work on muscles with knots.

Also, balance out both sides of your neck by doing the same to the SCM on the other side of your neck, even if you only think you have trigger points on one side.

Paul Pudhnum
Paul Pudhnum
Paul Pudhnum is the founder of huxfit®, a resource, and creator of muscle recovery products. He is a Biochemist, a patent holder and inventor of the TP BuddieRx.