Effective SCM Stretches for Alleviating Tension and Neck Pain
If you’ve ever experienced sore or tense neck muscles, you’ll know that the pain and restricted movement can impact your daily life. The good news is that tension in neck muscles, such as the sternocleidomastoid, can be reduced and even prevented with a simple stretching routine.
The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle is a major component of the neck, connecting the collarbone and shoulder to the back of the head. It plays an important role in controlling head movements, so keeping it flexible is essential for maintaining good posture and preventing injury.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best stretches for your SCM that you can do at home with minimal equipment. With these simple exercises that are safe to do daily, you can help protect yourself from strain or pain due to tightness in your SCM muscles. Read on to learn how!
1. Seated Neck Stretch
The seated neck stretch is a great sternocleidomastoid (SCM) stretch to start with. It’s simple and easy to do, no matter your fitness level.
- Sitting up straight and tall, take your right hand over the top of your head and reach down and across to the left side of your face with your fingertips.
- Gently tilt your head towards the right shoulder as you push on it slightly with your right hand. You should feel a nice stretch in the muscles along the left side of your neck.
- Hold for around 15-30 seconds before releasing slowly back to the centre.
- Repeat a few times on each side, focusing on taking slow deep breaths that allow you to sink further into the stretch with each repetition. This will help increase flexibility and release any tension or tightness held within those muscles.
2. Neck Rolls
Begin by sitting or standing up straight with your shoulders relaxed and back. Then, slowly roll your head in a circular motion in one direction several times before repeating it in the other direction. Make sure to keep your shoulders relaxed while you do this so as not to strain any muscles in your neck.
As you move through the circle, focus on activating different parts of the SCM muscle group until you have worked every inch of it. You’ll know you’re done when there’s no tension left behind in the area! With regular practice, these stretches can even improve posture and reduce stress levels.
3. Head Tilts
To perform this action, begin by standing or sitting in an upright position with your spine straight. Then slowly tilt your head to the left side until you feel a mild tension along the right side of your neck before reversing sides.
Hold each position for 10-15 seconds and repeat up to four times on each side depending on comfort level.
4. Shoulder Shrugs
To perform a shoulder shrug, stand or sit up straight with good posture and bring both shoulders towards your ears. Hold for five seconds before releasing them back down.
Try not to hunch forward as you do this exercise; instead, keep your chest lifted throughout the entire movement. Repeat 8-10 times for maximum benefit, pausing at the highest point each time before slowly lowering your shoulders back down again.
You should feel the tension in your SCM gradually lessen after several repetitions of this exercise.
5. Neck Extension
Neck extension exercises involve tipping your chin in towards the ceiling. This exercise helps to improve posture by strengthening the muscles on the back of the neck, which can help prevent pain and stiffness due to weak posture.
- Sit up tall and keep your shoulders relaxed. Gently tilt your chin upward to make your face as parallel with the ceiling as possible, then bring it slowly down towards your chest as you pull your shoulder blades together behind you.
- Do these exercises slowly for about 5-10 seconds before releasing and carefully returning to an upright position again.
- Remember to breathe throughout these movements and focus on maintaining good form by avoiding any jerky or fast motions.
6. Neck Flexion
By performing this exercise, you can help relieve tension in the muscles and create a greater range of motion in your neck.
- Sit or stand tall with your shoulders relaxed and chin parallel to the floor.
- Slowly drop your head forward until you feel a gentle stretch along the back of your neck. Hold for 20-30 seconds before slowly returning to starting position.
- Additionally, adding slight turning motions to each side as you lower into the stretch may provide more relief from tightness throughout the area.
7. Head Lifts
To do this stretch correctly, start by lying down on your back with both knees bent and feet flat against the floor.
- Use your hands to support your head gently while you lift it up so that your chin is pointing towards the ceiling.
- Maintain this position for five seconds before slowly lowering your head back onto the floor.
- You should feel a gentle stretch throughout your entire neck, especially at the SCM muscles located along either side of your neck.
- You can also modify this exercise if needed by placing a rolled towel under your neck while performing the lift. This will help provide extra support and make sure you are able to maintain proper form as you execute the movement.
TIP: If you prefer to watch a video tutorial for stretches, check out my neck stretch videos online by clicking HERE.
We Care About Your Mind, Body and Spine
Here at Mind Body Spine, we believe that exercise is one of the most important factors in long-term health. By incorporating strength and stretching into your daily routine, you can look forward to less pain, stress and injury.
So, take charge of your neck health and enjoy the benefits of an empowered life. Stay connected to us on social media, and don’t forget to access our extensive online library of at-home exercises to keep you feeling your best.
Together, let’s embrace a journey of wellness and unlock the full potential of your mind, body and spine. Book your appointment today!