I have struggled with my SCM muscles for a long time. I have tried strengthening exercises (that have helped on my right side), SCM stretch, self-massage on SCM, changing to a side sleeping position, and working on a better posture.
But still, I struggle with stiffness that radiates to my eye when I press the right SCM. Any advice?
Good to hear you are doing self-massage for SCM (sternocleidomastoid muscle). Here are some more things you can do to relieve pain and stiffness which are easy to perform.
Set aside at least 15 minutes daily to do simple stretches or yoga poses. Here are a few examples to get you started:
Neck Rotation - Sit or stand facing forward. Exhale and slowly turn your head to the right, keeping your shoulders relaxed and down. Inhale and return to the center. Exhale and turn to look over your left shoulder. Do ten rotations on each side.
Head tilts - Sit or stand facing forward. Exhale as you slowly tilt your right ear down toward your shoulder. Use your right hand to apply gentle pressure to your head to deepen the stretch. Hold for a few breaths, feeling the stretch on the side of your neck down to your collarbone. On an inhale, return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side. Do ten tilts on each side.
Revolved triangle - Stand with your feet about four feet apart. Face your right toes forward and your left toes out at a slight angle. Square your hips and face forward in the same direction your right toes are pointing. Lift your arms up at your sides, so they are parallel to the floor. Slowly hinge at your hips to fold forward, stopping when your torso is parallel to the floor. Bring your left hand to your leg, the floor, or a block, wherever you can reach. Extend your right arm straight up with your palm facing away from your body. Turn your gaze to look up toward your right thumb. Exhale to turn your neck to look down at the floor. Inhale as you return your gaze upward. Keep the rest of your body stable and continue these neck rotations as you stay in the pose for up to 1 minute. Perform on the opposite side.
Upward plank - This pose allows you to passively hang your head back and down, releasing tension in your neck and shoulders. This lengthens and stretches the SCM, chest, and shoulder muscles. Make sure the back of your neck is fully relaxed to avoid compressing your spine. If it is uncomfortable to let your head hang back, you can tuck your chin into your chest and lengthen the back of your neck. Focus on engaging your neck muscles without straining. You can also allow your head to hang back on some support, such as a chair, the wall, or stacked blocks. Come into a seated position with your legs extended in front of you. Press your palms into the floor alongside your hips. Lift your hips and bring your feet under your knees. Deepen the pose by straightening your legs. Open your chest and let your head drop back. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Do this pose up to three times. If you are doing these poses as part of a full yoga session, be sure to do them after you’ve warmed up.
Massage - Consider getting a massage as often as once per week. This may help relieve muscle tension and stress, though the results may only be short-term. You can even do a self-massage on your head, neck, and shoulders for 10 minutes daily. You might also use alternative therapies such as chiropractic acupuncture.
Heat or cold packs - Hot and cold therapies are a simple option to treat pain at home. This may help relieve swelling, relax muscles, and reduce pain. Apply an ice pack or heating pad to the affected area for 20 minutes a few times throughout the day. If you alternate between the two, end with the cold treatment.
It will be good to visit an acupuncturist for better results to get rid of pain, even if you find no result after following the above exercises.
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