Neck pains and headaches are among the most common uncomfortable inconveniences people experience frequently. There are countless over the counter medications or expensive procedures to try and remedy these pains, when in reality the simplest solution is targeting the problem at the source, rather than taking care of the pain afterwards.
Symptoms and Presentation
The muscle at fault here is the sternocleidomastoid muscle which is long and located in the side of the neck, extending up from the thorax to the base of the skull right behind the ear. Problems in this muscle can refer pain to the front of the head, the ear, and around the eyes. Trigger points can be found on the entirety of the muscle, both at the Sternal division and the Clavicular division. The Sternal division is responsible for those paints that are felt at the eye socket, above the eye, and below it by the cheeks. It can also sometimes cause pain in the back and top of the head. The Clavicular division is responsible for the pain felt across the forehead, in and around the ear, and often times it can bring pain to the jaw/teeth area. There are many trigger points in this large muscle and can present itself as a common headache, when really it is muscle discomfort.
The SCM Pincer Palpation method is fantastic to treat the trigger points present at this region of the neck. This should be followed up with myofascial stretching. Side bending to the opposite side, rotation, and side extensions are great stretches to loosen the tightened muscle to relieve pain. These must be done very slowly to avoid strain and added discomfort and should be held for 45 seconds – 1 minute at least in each position. Things to keep in mind are posture and sleeping positions. When laying down to sleep, avoid positioning the pillow below the shoulders. This positioning will provide less support on the sternocleidomastoid muscle and causes overstretching of this muscle throughout the night. Always try and place your pillows to give your cervical spine support and proper alignment.