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Neck stretching for the left SCM muscle

The sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) is a neck muscle. It has 2 bands. 1 attaches from behind the ear to the breast bone and the other from behind the ear to the collar bone.

Because of these 2 attachments, a tight left SCM muscle can affect the neck by causing the head to tilt to the left side or causing the head to rotate to the right side.

This left sided neck tightness can cause a child to have a neck turn preference to the right.

To help reduce this tightness we have several exercises and positions to try.

Rotation stretch

Apply a firm downward pressure on your child’s right shoulder to make sure it stays in contact with the supporting surface throughout the stretch.

Illustration of baby laid on their back with someone holding their chest and head

Use your other hand to gently rotate your child’s head towards their left shoulder. At some stage you will feel pressure resistance. Hold at this point for 20 seconds. Repeat this 5 times, 5 to 6 times per day.

Illustration of baby laid on their back with someone holding their chest and head, pushing it to one side

Sidebend stretch

Using your right hand, apply a firm downward pressure on the left shoulder and cup your left hand over the left side of your child’s head.

Illustration of baby laid on their back with someone holding their shoulder and head

Gently bring your child’s right ear towards their right shoulder. Try to keep your baby facing forwards. At some stage you will feel some resistance. Hold at this point for 20 seconds. Repeats this 5 times, 5 to 6 times per day.

Illustration of baby laid on their back with someone holding their shoulder and head pulling it to one side

Another way to stretch this muscle is to hold your child in a side lying position facing away from you with their left ear resting on your left elbow. Place your right arm between their legs to support your child’s body. Raise your left elbow to apply a stretch. You can also use this as a carrying position.

Illustration of baby being held on their side, through their legs

Alternative positions for stretching the left SCM muscle

Place your child on their tummy, with their head turned to the left. Try and make sure both their shoulders stay flat against the supporting surface. Use toys and distractions to encourage your child to stay in this position for 20 seconds.

Illustration of baby laid on their front with someone holding their back and their head

You can also do this stretch by holding your child close to your chest making sure their shoulders are flat against your chest and head looking to the left.

Illustration of baby being held to someone's chest with their head to one side

You can also lie your child on their left side, stabilising their head looking towards the left and gently allow the right shoulder and hip to fall backwards onto the supporting surface. Gravity and body weight will help this and help provide a good stretch. Toys and distractions should be used to help keep your child looking to the left.

Illustration of baby on their side with someone holding their back and their head  Illustration of baby laid on their back with someone holding their chest and head

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: PT80

Resource Type: Article

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United Kingdom

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