Sternocleidomastoid Syndrome: Symptoms & Treatment

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  • 0:04 A True Pain in the Neck
  • 0:59 Symptoms
  • 1:38 Treatment
  • 2:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

The sternocleidomastoid is a long muscle of the neck that can become irritated, leading to a condition called sternocleidomastoid syndrome. Be sure to watch this lesson to learn about this syndrome, including the symptoms and treatments.

A True Pain in the Neck

Have you ever had a knot or very sensitive area in one of your muscles? Oftentimes these knots and sensitive areas are trigger points, which are tight areas of muscles where the muscle fibers form into rope-like bands. Trigger points can be caused by stress, overuse of the muscle, poor posture, and inactivity, among other causes. If you've ever had a trigger point, then you know that even the slightest pressure on this area of the muscle can bring about great pain.

A common area that people get these trigger points is in the sternocleidomastoid muscle. The sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) is a long, thin muscle that is located on each side of the neck. This muscle functions to bend the neck forward and to the sides, as well as turn the head to the left and right. When trigger points form on the SCM, a condition called sternocleidomastoid syndrome can result.


There are several symptoms of SCM syndrome. These symptoms include:

  • Dull aches and pains in neck
  • Sharp pains in neck
  • Neck stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion of the neck

Additionally, SCM syndrome can cause referred pain, which is pain that is felt in a part of the body other than the part of the body that is the actual source of the pain and, therefore, SCM syndrome causes pain in other areas of the body outside of the neck, which includes:

  • Head
  • Eyes
  • Shoulders
  • Throat
  • Behind the ears
  • Chin
  • Nose


There are several modes of treatment for SCM syndrome. Oftentimes, this condition will require physical therapy. Physical therapy for SCM syndrome will involve various exercises and stretches of the neck designed to eliminate the symptoms of the condition, as well as the trigger points themselves. Additionally, massages and other compression therapies can be used in order to reduce the tension in the SCM. Over-the-counter pain medications can be used to help reduce the pain associated with this syndrome.

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