Simple Self-Care Remedies
Here are simple self-care tips for relieving myofascial pain and dysfunction in your SCM:
Step 1: Warming Up with Moist Heat
To relax and warm up the fibers of the SCM, take a warm shower or place moist heat such as a Fomentek bag over the front and side of the neck for 10-15 minutes. With a child, a warm moist towel might be most comfortable. Be careful to test the temperature on yourself first before placing any heat on a child.
Step 2: Compression
Whenever you are performing trigger point therapy techniques on children, it is best to perform them on yourself first to understand what they feel like. We are going to first start with self-care on yourself and then show you how to perform these techniques on your child.
The best method for compressing trigger points on yourself might be to use a Jacknobber or continue using the pincer contact you used during palpation. When you find a tender spot, press into the muscle to pain tolerance (“good pain” – not sharp pain). Hold for 10 seconds while completing at least two full breaths in and out. Then continue searching for more trigger points.
For children, practice what you are going to do on yourself first to see what it feels like. Here is the best way to treat the SCM for your little ones:
Have your child lying face up with your hand gently supporting the back of the head. Position your child’s head so it is turned toward the same side as the SCM you are going to gently compress and tilted away from the same side shoulder (as shown).
Begin lightly and slowly stroking the muscle along the length from the top toward the bottom. Be sure not to push in too much as the area may be very sensitive, especially during an earache. A small amount of hypoallergenic massage lotion might be helpful.
Always ask the child if what you are doing feels ok. If the child withdraws from your touch that can be a sign of too much pressure or too fast of a stroke. If the child is ticklish, you can broaden your contact by adding more fingers.
Also, keep your strokes to short lengths of time (4 to 5 seconds max). Pressing anywhere near someone else’s throat area can make them nervous about choking if you press too long at one time. Cover the entire muscle on both sides until the muscle softens and pain reduces. Spend no more than 10 minutes per side to avoid overworking the muscle. You can repeat this 2-3 times per day, monitoring to make sure you aren’t causing soreness – gentleness is the key!
Step 3: Stretching Your SCM
There are two stretches for the SCM for adults to perform. For your child, the stretching is occurring during the compression, so additional stretches are not usually necessary.
1.) Lateral Flexion:
This stretch is similar to the Lateral Flexion test we just performed above, only with 2 added steps.
Using a stretching strap or jump rope, step on one section of the rope and hold the other end with your hand so that the rope is taut (as Shown). You should feel a gentle pull on your shoulder down toward the floor.
Now, tilt your head toward the opposite shoulder, as you did in the Lateral Flexion test. Gently rest your opposite hand on the top of your head and stretch gently down toward the shoulder a little further. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds to tolerance. Repeat 3 times and alternate to the other side. This stretch can be performed 2-3 times per day or more as needed.
2.) Rotation Stretch
As in the rotation self-test above, rotate your head to one side. This will stretch the same side SCM. For an additional stretch, gently use two fingers to press on the cheek bone, encouraging the head to rotate slightly more. Do not strain, but stop at a comfortable stretch. This stretch can also be performed 2-3 times per day or more as needed.