Self Care-Upper Back

Self Care – Scalene Pain of the Torso, Arm & Hand


Self-Care includes
– Activities to avoid and change,
– Strategies for quick relief,
– Stretching for longer-lasting relief,
– Corrective Exercises, Yoga, and more…

Scalene muscles produce a number of patterns that can be experienced separately. These strategies are great for relief from that tingling in your index finger and thumb with pain in the upper back, along the shoulder blade. Also, this can be helpful for the pattern in front of the shoulder that people get when relined. Further down in this post, there is a link to the more extensive change needed in correcting forward head posture.

Activities To Avoid or Change:

This pattern comes from the scalene muscles, which are used in breathing. They should be an accessory breathing muscle, but certain postures make them the primary breathing muscle. When you are leaned forward so that it is difficult to breathe with your diaphragm, they pull up on the top ribs to inhale. For help with that, look at this post about seated posture so that this doesn’t occur.

Also, this is aggravated by driving with your hands at 10 and 2. By the way, that creates risks of being injured, if the airbag goes off. Drive with your hands at 4 and 8. It’s more relaxing, safer, and stops your scalene muscles from cutting off the circulation to your arms.

Sleeping on your back tightens these muscles and “puts your arms to sleep.” If you have that condition, take a look at this post about stiff and swollen hands in the morning.

For Temporary Relief:

Wrap your neck in a warm towel, sit up straight, and roll your shoulder around in circles. It will loosen these tightened neck muscles and usually restores circulation to the arms.

Suppose you’re having problems with your arms going to sleep at night and need to get out of bed. Focus on gently rolling your shoulders around and moving your head from side to side to get feeling back in your arms before attempting to use them to get out of bed, etc. This approach can restore feeling much more quickly than trying to use your arms. Also, this avoids the dangerous activity of getting out of bed when your arms aren’t working properly.

Quick Relief in a Pinch

This post has a quick and easy stretch for releasing the scalenes that entrap nerves and blood vessels to the upper extremity. They can be useful if you’re stuck in a car or at a desk and want a little temporary relief.



These self-care activities, like over-the-counter drugs, are not intended to replace appropriate medical attention. If you have concerns about these self-care activities, get help from a professional. Use these suggestions and strategies with discretion and at your own risk. See your doctor when your pain is severe, persistent, or doesn’t respond to these simple suggestions.

Stretches and Exercises for Longer-Lasting Relief:

Lasting Changes while Driving or Sitting at your Desk

This post’s exercise is really great for releasing tension in the head, neck, and upper back. It is particularly good at strengthening the muscle that lower shoulders while releasing the muscles that keep them high and tight. Also, this is a great exercise to incorporate into your driving routine. It makes a big difference over time.


Classic, More Extensive Stretches

These stretches for scalenes have been an effective approach for more than 30 years. They take a little time, a place to lay down, and a little ice. It will be worth it to take the time to learn to do them properly and work with them regularly.

Improve the ergonomics
at your home or office.

Poor seated posture is often the biggest factor that perpetuates Forward-Head Posture and tight scalene muscles.

This post offers some great ideas for actively sitting without support or sitting with supports that help you avoid pain and fatigue. There are also suggestions about a few useful accessories.

Address the Underlying Postural Problems

This muscle contributes to Forward-Head posture. It becomes short and strong. Once the head has become imbalanced over the trunk, this muscle is supported to become shorter and stronger.

If you have Forward-Head Posture, review this collection, especially the self-care exercise Tuck, Tilt, Turn and Lift.


I’d love your feedback on how this works for you
and any suggestions you might have.
Email me at integrativeworks@gmail.com.

Yoga Corner

Cat-Cow from tableforchange.com

Yoga poses that extend the neck, like this Cat-Cow pose, are great for opening the base of the neck in the front so that the scalene done entrap the neurovascular bundle that feeds the arm.

Upward facing dog from experiencelife.com

Important changes will come from dropping your collar bone as you exhale in poses. This mindful habit will relax the scalenes and the rest of your neck and head. If you want to play with that, try the breathing exercises listed above. You’ll see amazing results from just focusing on that a few times a day at red-lights or at your desk.

Very Similar Pain Pattern, Different Muscle

Other trigger point patterns
have similar areas of referral and impaired activities.

There are many patterns that overlap the referral areas of the scalene muscles. You might want to look at these posts on pain patterns that run into the upper back, and hand.

Also Consider these posts of patterns that create pain and tension from that starts in the torso and extends down the arm.

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This video is a brief overview of the Integrative Bodywork Model. It explores the difference between integrated and integrated approaches. Additionally., it walks through an example.

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Please drop us a note at
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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written materials and instructed classes since the mid-90s. This includes anatomy, trigger points, cranial, and neuromuscular.

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*This site is undergoing significant changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and include more patterns with better self-care. Meanwhile, there may be formatting, content presentation, and readability inconsistencies. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.

Tony Preston

Tony Preston, LMT has been treating adults and children since the early 90s. He has authored a number of texts on neuromuscular and craniosacral techniques. He has taught Neuromuscular Therapy for ASHA School of Massage and craniosacral the National Institute of Craniosacral Studies. He currently teaches seminars in Integrative Craniosacral techniques at The Body Guild.

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