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Self Care – Sternocleidomastoid

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

Activities To Avoid or Change:

The sternocleidomastoid is complex and produces many different symptoms. These self-care exercises work for any of the posts about sternocleidomastoid. Managing this muscle has benefits ranging from calming your anxiety to headaches around the brow, headache in the forehead, or getting rid of a nagging cough.

This guy looks so sophisticated and peaceful, and I bet he thinks that reading is good for him. The problem is that this is the classic position that starts aggravates SCM. He’s in a Head-Forward Posture. He is tilted to one side, with his hips forward in the chair. He needs to slide his hips back in the chair and look down instead of dropping his head forward. It would also help if he did The Box.

Support Yourself.

Chronic problems with this muscle often stem from poor ergonomics where you work. This muscle gets aggravated when the person looks down and to one side, as when working from a book.

This post has a variety of ideas about how to improve your seated posture while working. It covers home, office, desktop, laptop, and some useful accessories.

This position is even worse. Look at his SCM stand out. It’s not just that he has pulled his head forward, which engages both of SCMs; he also turned his head to make one of them much shorter and stronger. Look how his SCM on his right pops out.

This sleeping position is just wrong in several ways but is particularly bad for the SCM. This twist in the neck often happens with the person lying face-up and turning the head sharply to one side. The SCM muscle on her left will be very tight in the morning.

For Temporary Relief:

One of those small Salonpas patches will help. Put if right there where the green X is in the illustration. Give it a few minutes to settle, and it will offer relief.

Use a small patch, not the cream. A patch will be less likely to bother your eyes than the cream. Still, even the little patch bothers some people. If it bothers you, do the simple ice and stretch below.

If you do not have a topical patch, get some ice and do the stretches below.



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:

This little video on hangover relief will offer some quick relief for sternocleidomastoid symptoms, even if you do not have a hangover. The SCM is complex and creates a variety of symptoms, including sinus inflammation, tinnitus, and crapulence (hangover). The Box, in the video below, is better, but this is quick if you only have a few minutes. I use it several times a week when I’m irritated, tired, or anxious and need to get centered and focused. I talk about that in this video on calming yourself with this stretch.

Do The Box.

Do all of The Box. Just like it says. Do the Top of the neck first, then the bottom of the neck.

Pay extra attention to the front of your neck at the bottom when you are stretching. That’s stretches #7 and #8 on the second pass. It will open those scalene muscles that support the SCM in perpetuating forward head posture.

At the end, do a little extra of stretch #9 or #10, turning toward the side that lays closer to your neck, which is the side that is producing symptoms.

Consider the Supporting Muscles

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 [email protected].

Yoga Corner

Tiffany Russo from Yoga Journal

Postures like this that pull the head forward will aggravate these headaches, especially the headache across the forehead. Tiffany is doing a beautiful job. However, it’s just not the right thing when you have these headaches.

This position is similar to doing crunches, watching TV in bed, or lying flat on your back while reading a tablet on their chest. All of those activities will aggravate this trigger point.

Very Similar Pain Pattern, Different Muscle

Does another Self-Care post
better match your pain?

This self-care post is for the pain pattern discussed in these posts about headaches around the brow and headaches in the forehead.

There are several other posts that produce similar symptoms in the TMJ, brow, sinuses, and ear.

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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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 will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistencies in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.