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 a lot of different symptoms. This Self-Care post is used for several different posts about specific problems. Managing this muscle has a lot of great benefits from calming your anxiety to headaches around the brow, headache in the forehead or getting rid of a nagging cough.

This looks so genteel and peaceful and I bet he thinks that reading is good for him but this is the classic position that starts creating a bad 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, look down instead of dropping his head forward and do The Box.

Support Yourself.

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

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

This is even worse. Look at his SCM stand out. Its 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 just pops out.

This is just bad in several ways but is particularly bad for the SCM. This usually happens with the person face-up, head sharply turned and tilted in the same direction. The muscles on her left will be very tight in the morning.

For temporary relief:

One of those small Salonpas patches will really help. Put if right here 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 patch bother some people. If so, just do the simple ice and stretch below.

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

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 number of different symptoms, including sinus inflammation, tinnitus, and crapulence (hangover). The Box, in the video below, is better, but this is quick if you just have a minute. 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 when you are stretching the bottom of your neck . That’s stretched #7 and #8 on the second pass. It will open those scalenes that support the SCM to perpetuate 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.

This muscle contributes to Forward-Head posture. It becomes short and strong. Once the head has become imbalanced, 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

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, it’s just not the right thing when you have these headaches.

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

Other patterns that may better match your pain pattern…

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.

This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began changing the format of the posts to include more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We’d love your feedback. We are adding posts and converting the old posts as quickly as time permits.

Weekly Featured Post

Pain relief that is
quicker and more effective
than traditional stretching.

This post covers the basics of Ice-and-Stretch, a toll that is used extensively in these posts combined with Active Isolated Stretching and Yoga poses.

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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Please note that some of the product links in the posts are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission when you purchase through that link. I’ve personally used most of these products and believe are genuinely helpful. Some products aren’t appropriate for me so I recommend it based on my experience with clients or the reviews online. The commissions I make are small and not worth promoting lesser products that would not produce suitable value. And please note, I do not advocate buying something that you can’t afford or that you’re not yet ready to implement.