The sternocleidomastoid is the prevailing muscle on both sides of the neck. If it is tense or carries trigger points, it can trigger pain in the head, ear, eye and face.
Fortunately, it is possible to relieve the pain with a self-massage.
If you also work the other muscles that are potentially responsible for your symptom, it is possible to completely relieve it.
All you need is, beside your fingers, the willingness to practice the massage with some patience and to “re-discover” your body.
If the muscle is tense, it is usually sensitive to pressure. If it has active trigger points, the pain may also extend into the region of the head.
As the muscle consists of two separate muscle heads, it can cause pain in different areas.
The sternal part of the muscle can cause pain in the temple, cheek and eye. In addition, it often sends pain to the back of the head and to the top of the head.
Because of the latter characteristics it can be involved in ….
Click on the respective link to find out what you can do yourself against these headaches and learn about other muscles potentially causing the same pain.
The clavicular part of the muscle, i.e. the part that originates from the collarbone, causes pain mainly in the ear and forehead.
If you have a headache on your forehead, just click on the link below.
These may be of muscular origin and can be relieved by yourself.
Note: The muscle often sends the pain to the opposite side of your forehead. Thus, it makes sense to examine it on both sides of the neck.
In addition to the pain described above, trigger points in the sternocleidomastoid can also contribute to the following symptoms and ailments….
The sternocleidomastoid consists of two muscles, both of which have the same insertion, but different origins.
Both insert at the back of your head, but originate on the collarbone – clavicular part – and breastbone – sternal part – of the respective side.
Latin names of the attachment points
Concerning the function of the sternocleidomastoid, we distinguish whether the muscles work on both sides of the neck – bilaterally – or only on one side – unilaterally –
Bilateral contraction provides the following movements:
Unilateral contraction provides the following movements
The sternocleidomastoid gets tense and develops trigger points especially when it is constantly (or for longer periods of time) kept in a shortened or stretched position. That can happen frequently in your everyday life.
You may recognize yourself in one of the following examples
It is difficult to read and pronounce the name of this muscle, but it is easy to feel and massage it!
Note: If you feel a pulse while palpating or massaging the sternocleidomastoid, then you have “caught” your cervical artery.
It’s all right, if you don’t massage it and squeeze it constantly. Just let go and try to grab the muscle again, this time without the artery.
Place one of your fingers on the upper end of your sternum and try to feel the tendon of the muscle.
If you move your finger to the right and left, you can feel it jumping back and forth under your finger.
Now grasp the tendon with a pincer grip and feel the course of the muscle upwards to the back of your head.
You will find the clavicular part of the muscle a little further on the side of your neck.
This part is not so easy to pull away from the neck and it is covered by the sternal part from about half on, which will make the palpation and massage a bit more difficult.
Nevertheless, this division can still be felt quite well.
Place your fingers on your collarbone, about 2 centimeters from the tendon you have just palpated on your sternum.
For the massage, I recommend the thumb-indexfinger-technique, with which you can massage the sternocleidomastoid between your fingers.
I recommend starting the massage slowly and with care, observing the reactions of your body.
My personal experience is, as well as many persons’ experience with whom I worked so far, that the massage of the sternocleidomastoid is very unpleasant.
My tip: Repeat the massage until you find no more painful points.
This may take a few weeks, but you will not regret it. Anyway, it does not take longer than a few minutes to massage the muscle.