Health and Wellbeing therapy


The Sternocleidomastoid(SCM) muscle is a big “juicy” muscle at the front of the neck. Sterno refers to the sternum, or breast bone. Cleido refers to the clavicle, or collar bone. Mastoid is the mastoid process, a knobbly bone behind the ear. These are all the areas that the muscle attaches to. Many of use suffer with pain in the back of the neck, so why are we concentrating on this muscle in the front? The SCM is actually the culprit for an incredible amount of pain but it shows up in lots of different areas.

We are going to cover some of the symptoms created by trigger points in the SCM, referral pain, causes and some treatment techniques to help ease some of the symptoms.

This is a picture of a real SCM. Now can you find yours?

 Here is an anatomical drawing of the SCM.

Symptoms of SCM trigger points are widespread and can often be over looked, just dealing with the symptoms, not the cause.

Common Symptoms include:

  • Tension headache,
  • Muscles sore to touch,
  • Persistent, dry, tickly cough,
  • Partial paralysis of trapezius muscle if the SCM traps the cranial nerve XI.

Sternal Division:

  • Pain refers to top of the head, back of the head, cheek and over the top or behind the eye,
  • Sinus congestion on affected side, chronic sore throat from referred pain rather than infection,
  • Weeping and reddening of the eye, blurred vision, drooping or twitching of the eyelid,
  • One-sided deafness or crackling in the ear.

Clavicular Division:

  • Headaches across the whole forehead,
  • Deep ear pain,
  • Pain in the cheek and molar teeth,
  • Referred eye and sinus symptoms,
  • Dizziness and disturbed balance/vertigo,
  • Seasickness or car sickness,
  • Nausea and loss of appetite.


 Referral Pain Pattern of the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM)

Perpetuating causes of trigger points include:

  • Stress to the SCM, as in lots of overhead activities eg. Painting a ceiling, looking up for long periods of time, swimming strokes, horse riding and handling and wearing a necktie too tight,
  • Poor posture, forward head posture, poor ergonomics, using a computer especially a laptop, reading in bed, sleeping with too many pillows, having the head turned to the side or back for long periods of time,
  • Injuries or sudden jerks to the head eg. Whiplash,
  • Improper breathing and tight pectoralis major muscle,
  • Chronic or acute infections eg. Sinusitis or flu and
  • Structural problems, keeping balance eg. Scoliosis or leg length discrepancy.

Click on the link below to see a good stretch for the SCM, which can help ease trigger point symptoms. Also regular massage treatments with focus on the front line of the body, pectoralis major and minor, SCM, scalenes and other shoulder girdle and neck muscles will help identify and release trigger points and their symptoms.

Obviously this is an overview of some symptoms that maybe caused by trigger points in the SCM but if you are suffering from any of the above symptoms and you are concerned, then you should always have a check up with your doctor.

If you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned or wish to know more about Trigger Points, you can contact me via my website or email me

Till next time, keep happy and healthy.


H&W Massage Therapy


21 responses to “Trigger Points in STERNOCLEIDOMASTOID (SCM)”

  1. D.T. says:

    I started physical therapy June 1, 2018, for SCM, scalenes, and trapezius pain and immobility. Symptoms started probably five years ago with an interim cervical disc replacement surgery. One-sided hearing loss 2-1/2 years ago. A great pain management MD referred me to a wonderful PT who is using manual PT, Graston Technique, craniosacral therapy, electrical stimulus, and traction. Periodic trigger point injections of Lidocaine (by the MD) into the muscles allows the PT to work more effectively. Good progress after 8 weeks. No medications. Got rid of the most severe dagger-like pains in the neck, with more progress to make in the future.

  2. Judy Lewis says:

    I have had Occipital Neuralgia for about a year and a half. and have seen a Neurologist, ENT, and Pain Mgmt Specialist. My symptoms are severe pain on the left side of my neck and head from the base of my spine to the top of my head. An MRI showed I had a large mass in the left maxillary sinus cavity. My ENT did surgery and removed polyps and a large fungus ball. That ended the pain in my teeth and jaw but not the rest. I’ve now had trigger point injections (didn’t work) and yesterday I had 14 Botox injections (haven’t started to work yet). I’m also taking Gabapentin and using an infared heating pad. All help, but it’s never completely gone. When it flares, it is painful above my left ear. I also have Tinnitus in the right ear. It’s a long journey, and it’s not over. During my lifetime, I was in two auto accidents and had whiplash, so that may be the cause. This pain is a beast, and I haven’t been able to do much for a long time.

  3. Anne B says:

    My future son in law has suffered for FIVE years with awful pain & despite medication is still suffering. Nothing seems to work. The Pain Clinic just fire more pills at him I am worried he will become depressed as he can’t work when it’s at its worst & cant sleep or eat. Its taking its toll on all the family as we feel helpless esp my daughter who is wornderful but has a stressful job at the best of times. Any ideas & thought of how to move forward would be appreciated

  4. Viki Duerr says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually suppose this web site needs way more consideration. I’ll in all probability be once more to learn way more, thanks for that info.

  5. Elle says:

    Okay so I think I have a lot of these symptoms but I want to know if someone can relate to something weird I’ve been feeling. On the left side of my neck I feel almost like a stiffness and if I push my chin back or move my head in certain positions, this extremely sharp pain on my left side of neck, behind my ear and even up to my face near the left side of my nose happens. I have a pressure on the left side of my nose that I felt when my upper left wisdom tooth was being extracted (I started a horrible sinus infection after upper wisdom teeth were removed). All of it just feels weird and I need someone to relate to.

  6. Elle Suissa says:

    Okay so I think I have a lot of these symptoms but I want to know if someone can relate to something weird I’ve been feeling. On the left side of my neck I feel almost like a stiffness and if I push my chin back or move my head in certain positions, this extremely sharp pain on my left side of neck, behind my ear and even up to my face near the left side of my nose happens. I have a pressure on the left side of my nose that I felt when my upper left wisdom tooth was being extracted (I started a horrible sinus infection after upper wisdom teeth were removed). All of it just feels weird and I need someone to relate to.

  7. Payton says:

    I will also add that in the last year, the pain has extended from my neck on the right side down through the top of my right arm (over the elbow) to my thumb and small finger. The strength of my hand to open something (like a bottle top) at this time is impaired. Again, this subsides when I take a decongestant for the concurrent sinus congestion. If the sinus surgery does not relieve my symptoms, I would really like to know of a good therapist in the states. I live in Louisiana. Unfortunately, our doctors “specialize” into treatment areas and are inclined to utilize pills or surgery for treatment rather than a more holistic approach.

  8. Payton says:

    I am nearly certain that my pain in this muscle is triggered by sinus congestion. The congestion is the CAUSE. If I take a decongestant like Claritin-D early enough when the symptoms of neck pain spasm on the right side that makes it as tight as a 2×4, right eye tearing and a bit droopy, top of head and back of skull pain, nausea from the pain in the neck, and on occasion numbness or tingling on the face near the jaw on the right side, THEN and only then the neck related symptoms will subside. If I wait too late, it will take both a muscle relaxer, the decongestant, exercises of the neck, warm compresses, and reclining on a neck-supportive pillow to overcome the pain gradually. I am scheduled for sinus surgery in March. The major issues are also noted by my ENT on the right side. It’s hard to imagine that congestion can bring on such debilitating symptoms., but it has consistently been co-exisiting exclusively like this for me for many years now. It has taken me so long to figure out the connection because it does not seem logical. I’ll let you all know if the neck issues get better with the sinus surgery.

  9. Angela Brown says:

    I have suffered in chronic daily pain coming upon 3 years March. This SCM had just been brought to my attention through a massage therapist. I am desperate for relief!! Im leanu g towards botox, i have constant Right eye pain full ear top of head behind ear jaw neck shoulder and cheek pain. It never stops and My quality of life has become a 1 i live in daily pain at an 8 plus! Help

  10. Steve Pask says:

    Thed descriptions above is unbelievably word for word the problems I have been having for a few years now and is getting worse.I always thought my problems were from the arm, back and shoulder up to the jaw- left side.I do a manual job working a bench hunched over and also up ladders and scaffolding carrying heavy loads.I am left handed . Over the years I’ve approached doctors with back, shoulders and neck pains but, not resolving the problem.I am now in two minds wether to approach them again?

  11. Liz Mendoza says:

    I have an acute this the reason why I suffered from SCM pain? What should I do? Please help!!!

  12. John says:

    I have suffered unbelievable cramp like pain in my neck for approx. 2 weeks. I have never experienced pain like this.

  13. Diane says:

    The above info was very helpful. Thank you!

  14. Gina Turbolski says:

    Could this muscle play a part with the reacurrent larangal nerve on the leftside of my neck soooo much pain I can not stand it what can I do

  15. Bonnie Simmers says:

    Satya, I think. Is the TN pain something neurological? What does that stand for? I’m having problems with my SCM. I’ve been diagnosed with cervical dystonia and have taken Botox injections. Thank you.

  16. Breanna says:

    Hi there,
    I have all of these symptoms, and have for some time now. The one that drives me the most crazy is the persistant irritated throat and nasal/ear pain. It starts to make you scared after a while if this is really what is going on, or if there is something more serious?
    I had a bad collarbone and rib break back in approx 7 years ago, and was wondering if this could have contributed to the problem? I know my work has definately contributed, as well as my sleeping habits.
    Last question is, can this problem go on for quite some time as well? I am seeing a chiropractor, and massage therapist, and I do lots of stretches on my own, but I’m just wondering how long I can expect to deal with this?

    Thanks for any help you can offer!!!

  17. Satya Talwar says:

    Can trigger point therapy of SCM help in TN pain.
    Thanks For the information

  18. Jen says:

    I have ringing in ears,tightness in neck and almost a numb feeling in the side of my face. Also my ear feels full most of time. The weekness down top of arm to leg offbalance as well. I’m never thought I would find all the symptoms that is listed here. Had neck injury about 3 years ago and now I can not function somedays. But then somedays I feel great!! Just feel better reading this. My life is kinda on hold when it flares up. Had MRI no tumor I’m sure I would been told if they seen one. What can I do help!! I’m 38 and I can’t stand not being myself

  19. jimthong says:

    A good remedial masseus has helped me a lot. Change your behaviours if they imposition your neck and do whatever stretched and massage you can at home. Good luck. Be ready for sharp and referred pain during massage if your SCM is really bad.

  20. Toni says:

    Hi I have been suffering with all the symptoms listed in the Sternal division and some of the clavicular division. My left scm muscle seems quite inflamed compared to my right.
    I also have pain and tension in the back of my neck, trapezium and shoulder blade. ( lots of knots)
    Which type of treatment can help me? A physio? A remedial massage therapist ? Am currently trying Bowen therapy but it does not seem to be improving, have done this for 2 months.
    Thanking you in advance

  21. yosi says:

    if the scm himself is very painful – this mean that there are trigger points or another reason ?

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