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Platysma – Pain & Trigger Points

The platysma is a muscle of your front neck. If it is tense or carries trigger points, it can cause chest and facial pain.

On this page I will explain how to relieve these tensions and trigger points with a self-massage, along with pain in the face and chest.

Provided of course, that these ailments have a muscular origin, which is often the case.

You will also learn

  • which complaints this muscle can cause.
  • where it is located.
  • what movements it provides.
  • why it tenses and develops trigger points.
  • how to palpate it.
  • how to massage it.

It’s worth learning about this muscle.

1. Pain Patterns, Symptoms & Differential Diagnoses

1.1 Pain patterns

Trigger points in the platysma can cause prickling pain in the cheek, chin and mandible area.

If trigger points are located directly on or above the clavicle, they can cause prickling pain in the front part of the chest.

The tingling that this muscle can cause feels like “some needles”, instead of the “electrical tingling” that is mostly neurological in origin.

1.2 Symptoms and ailments

If the facial pain occurs in combination with headaches, also the Sternocleidomastoid/SCM may carry active trigger points.

The trigger points of the platysma overlap those of the SCM, which may favor the activation of trigger points in the SCM.

2. Origin & Insertion

The platysma is embedded in the subcutaneous connective tissue (i.e. under the skin) of the lower face and neck.

Its fibers connect with many other muscles and structures in this area. Among other spots, it attaches to the

  • orbicularis oris,
  • corners of your mouth,
  • lower jaw,
  • the subcutaneous fascia of the upper thorax (lower fibers of the muscle).

Spots where trigger points often arise are marked with an X.

3. Function

Contraction of the platysma pulls the corners of your mouth downwards and the skin of your chest and neck upwards. A movement we use to express “negative surprise.”

In addition, the muscle helps to open the already opened mouth and jaw even further.

4. Platysma – Trigger Point Activation

Trigger points in this muscle are often caused by active overload or by satellite trigger points.

4.1 Active overload

If you constantly use exaggerated empathic facial expressions in conversation with your counterpart, this can overload the muscle.

4.2 Activation of satellite trigger points

Trigger points in the SCM and the Scaleni can cause pain in the area of the neck and face, i.e. in the area where the platysma lies.

On a long term, this possibly overloads the muscle and activates trigger points – this is referred to as satellite trigger points.

5. Palpation

Feeling the muscle is very easy and will not be challenging for you. Simply contract it by moving the corners of your mouth downwards and the skin of your neck upwards.

Now you can feel the extention of the muscle over a large area.

But it’s also possible to palpate it more accurately:

  • Grab some skin and pull it away from your neck.
  • Keep pulling a little more until you feel a “layer of muscle tissue” escaping from your fingers. The escaped tissue is the platysma.
  • To feel it under contraction, grasp the neck again and then pull the corners of your mouth downwards and the skin of the neck upwards again.
  • Can you feel the muscle contracting?
  • Try to feel it in many spots. This will give you an idea of the area it covers.

6. Self-massage of the Platysma

Use your fingers for the massage. As a massage technique, you can use ischemic compression, precise massage strokes or the pressure-motion technique.

On this page, I show you the precise massage strokes, or in this case, the precise rolling movements.

Massage with thumb and index finger: Precise rolling movements

  • Grasp the muscle as described in the chapter Palpation.
  • Roll it back and forth between your fingers and seek for painful tensions.
  • Once you find one, roll it a few times between your fingers.
  • Trigger points are located mainly in the middle of the lateral neck and at the bottom of the collarbone.

Examples of massage positions

1

Massage in the area of the superior fibers of the muscle.

2

Massage in the area of the inferior fibers of the muscle.

References

  • Calais-German, Blandine. Anatomy of Movement. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993. Print
  • Davies, Clair, and Davies, Amber. The Trigger Point Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide For Pain Relief. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Print
  • Simons, David G., Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. Print.
  • Schünke, Michael., Schulte, Erik, and Schumacher, Udo. Prometheus: Lernatlas der Anatomie. Stuttgart/New York: Georg Thieme Verlag, 2007. Print