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Trigger Point Therapy - Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) Syndrome

Posted by Team NAT on

Stretching the SCM following trigger point treatment


SCM syndrome typically presents as neck stiffness with decreased rotation - sometimes along with nausea, tinnitus, vertigo, or spasms in the neck.

The syndrome is most often associated with myofascial trigger points in both the SCM and upper trapezius.



SCM Trigger Points

SCM - Common Trigger Point Sites




Causes are often posture related with ‘Upper Crossed Pattern’ a common indicator, and it is very much associated with aging.

SCM Syndrome can also be caused by a trauma such as whiplash and is commonly connected with occupation-related repetitive strain - for example, it is known to be prevalent in violinists.

Remember that the head is heavy!

In order to maintain balance the eyes and ears need to be kept level. As people age and experience spinal degeneration, it becomes harder for muscles to prevent the head flexing forward. 

We see this a lot in our clinics and the therapist should be aware of the complications associated with treating elderly clients with SCM Syndrome related to spinal degeneration.

In these cases, the elderly client will present with less muscle tone and chronically tightened SCM’s.



 SCM Trigger Points

SCM and Trigger Point formation - ‘Relative’ head weight according to posture


Spatial Awareness and Balance

Travell and Simons wrote extensively regarding their observations on the role of the sternocleidomastoid for spatial awareness and balance.

They observed that over time a tight SCM with trigger points may well lead to headaches, disequilibrium or vertigo, without the neck stiffness typically associated with SCM Syndrome.

This makes sense when we consider the changes in SCM tone and trigger point formation that occur secondary to altered postural dynamics of  the head forward/upper crossed pattern (as above). 

It's worth mentioning here that treating SCM trigger points seems to produce consistently good results in addressing the type of dizziness and vertigo that many people with fibromyalgia experience.











This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. 




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