Thankfully this muscle is usually referred to as SCM and we have one on each side of our neck. This strap like muscle starts at the back of the head just behind the ear and runs down the side of the neck before it spits in to two parts (or two heads) The upper most head, attaches to the sternum or breast bone of the chest and the deeper head attaches to the inner end of the collar bone.
When both muscles work together (bilaterally) it enables the head to move towards the chest as if we are nodding or looking down (flexion). When the muscle on one side of the neck is used (unilateral), it causes our head to turn to the opposite side (rotation). We also use it unconsciously, to stabilise or head and neck, to swallow and breathe. It may also compensate for tilting of the shoulders.
Pain in this muscle may be caused by an accident that causes your head to whip forward and back, sleeping in an awkward position or by a draft on your neck. Problems with this muscle can lead to headaches around the top of the eye and head, cheek, ear and/or below the chin. If untreated, this can lead to limited head rotation (you can’t quite get your head around to check for that car in your blind spot) and in some instances pain when breathing.
Remedial massage for neck pain will include stripping the muscle belly and treating any trigger point along with gentle stretches. As with any massage treatment, it is important to let your massage therapist know just how deeply she can work on the muscle and continue with any stretches the masseuse suggests as after care.
Basic Clinical Massage Therapy, 2003.