Look to your left. Now look to your right. Look at the floor. Now tilt your head to one of your shoulders. You have just given your sternocleidomastoid muscle to a good workout. This long, thick muscle is located at the base of your skull and is present on either side of the neck. On either side, it originates on the breastbone and attaches to the collarbone and mastoid process of the temporal bone of the skull.
What Is Sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM)?
Sternocleidomastoid muscle also known as musculus sternocleidomastoideus or simply SCM is one of the largest, strongest and the most complex muscles in the neck because of its intricate connections to other parts of the body and its ability to do multiple actions. Although it sits innocently in the front neck and can be easily seen, felt and touched (externally), many of us are unaware of its presence. This is because SCM is quite strong, it rarely hurts or gets damaged. However, if used improperly, it can create a tremendous amount of trouble in the form of facial pain, headaches, jaw pain and tension, blurry vision, dizziness, and hearing disturbance.
The SCM is responsible for several important functions, such as:
- side to side rotation of the head/neck
- tilt (left or right) movement of the head/neck
- bending movement of the head/neck
- stabilising the head/neck
- support in chewing and swallowing
In addition to performing the above mentioned important functions, SCM also helps in protecting the vertical neurovascular bundles, soft tissues, and deep cervical lymph nodes of the neck.
Although, this strong muscle is rarely subjected to damage, strain, or pain, there are certain trigger points present on both sides of the neck that can sometimes generate pain in the jaw, face, head, or ears. The good news is that SCM pain or strain can be easily treated by a myotherapist and maintained by performing a few basic exercises on daily basis.
See our SCM stretch video: