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What are Scalene Muscles?

A scalene muscle is a group of three muscles located in your neck. These muscles are responsible for helping you move your head and neck in different directions.

They are named “scalene” because they have a triangular shape, like a scalene triangle in geometry. These muscles play an important role in tasks like turning your head, tilting it to the side, or performing actions like nodding.

Additionally, these muscles are even helping you breathe by lifting your ribs during deep breaths. While they might not be the most famous muscles as other muscles in your body. But these muscles play an essential role in everyday movements and activities, like looking around and taking deep breaths.

Scalene Muscle Stretch

A scalene muscle stretch is a special exercise to make your neck feel better when it hurts. Your neck has different muscles, and some of them are called scalene muscles. These muscles are categorized as anterior, middle, and posterior muscles in your neck.

When your neck is not stable, it can hurt, and that’s why people sometimes go to a chiropractor. They help make your spine and neck more stable. When your neck isn’t stable, it can make the scalene muscles tight, and that can cause neck pain.

Scalene muscle stretching is an effective way to loosen up these tight muscles. This can happen when you sit at a desk or use a computer for a long time, and it makes your neck feel better.

How To Stretch Scalene Muscles

Chiropractic treatment is highly effective in providing relief from neck pain. However, there are additional measures you can take at home to achieve instant, albeit temporary, relief. One such method is the neck stretch routine, commonly referred to as the scalene stretch, which offers significant benefits for alleviating neck pain.

For proper execution of the scalene stretch, follow the step-by-step guide provided by Dr. Oscar Noriega, DC.

  1. To work on one side of the neck at a time, take a seat and place your hand and palm down under your buttock, ensuring it is not under your thigh. Now, sit up as straight and tall as you can.
  2. By keeping your hand under your buttock, it anchors your shoulder down on one side. Now, reach over with your other hand and place it just in front of your ear. While keeping your arm anchored down, start pulling over, aiming to stretch the side of your neck.
  3. It is important to make an effort to keep your nose pointing as straightforward as possible.
  4. Try to avoid tilting your head up or down, as this is a common mistake. Instead, focus on keeping your nose pointing straight ahead and pulling over directly in the middle.
  5. Afterward, you can pull forward to stretch the posterior scalene muscle. Additionally, you can slightly tilt your head upwards to engage in the anterior scalene stretch. The goal is to stretch all three muscles: the middle one, the one in the front, and the one in the back.
  6. Now, proceed to stretch the other side. Position your hand with the palm facing down under your buttock. Sit up tall and anchor your shoulder down. Reach just in front of your ear and pull over. Once again, you can slightly tilt forward and backward to stretch all the scalene muscles.

In summary- this neck stretch routine targets one side at a time. Sit upright, place one hand under your buttock, and gently pull to stretch the neck. Keep your nose pointing forward and avoid tilting. Stretch the posterior scalene by pulling forward and engage the anterior scalene with a slight upward tilt. Repeat the steps on the other side to stretch all the scalene muscles.

We recommend holding each stretch for about 30 seconds in the three positions. Although the exercise may take some time, it is highly beneficial for relieving scalene muscle pain. You will experience significant relief as tension is released from the sides of your neck.

Top 5 Most Common Tips To Maintain Your Scalene Muscles in Good Shape

You can’t completely avoid using your scalene muscles, as they play a role in various neck and shoulder movements. However, you can take steps to reduce strain and tension in these muscles to prevent discomfort. Here are some tips:

Regular Neck Stretches: Incorporate gentle neck stretches into your daily routine to prevent tension in your scalene muscles. These stretches help maintain flexibility and reduce the risk of tightness. Slowly tilt your head from side to side, forward and backward, and perform neck rotations. You can do these stretches multiple times throughout the day, especially if you have a desk job or spend a lot of time looking at screens.

Maintain Good Posture: Maintaining proper posture is a fundamental way to ease the strain on your neck and shoulders. When sitting or standing, keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and your head aligned with your spine. Avoid slouching or hunching forward, which can lead to scalene muscle tension.

Ergonomic Workspace: Set up your workspace, whether it’s at home or in the office, in an ergonomic way. Ensure your computer monitor is at eye level, use an ergonomic chair that supports your back, and adjust your keyboard and mouse so that your arms and wrists are in a comfortable position. This setup minimizes the stress on your neck and shoulders during work.

On-Time Breaks: Take short breaks during activities that put a strain on your neck, like prolonged computer work or reading. Stand up, stretch, and move around to relieve muscle tension. These short breaks can prevent scalene muscles from becoming overly tight and painful.

Stay Hydrated All Day: Proper hydration is essential for muscle health. Drinking enough water helps keep your muscles functioning optimally, reducing the risk of muscle tension and discomfort. Aim to consume an adequate amount of water throughout the day to support your overall muscle health.

Incorporating these five simple tips into your daily routine can help maintain relaxed and healthy scalene muscles. They not only prevent discomfort and pain but also contribute to better overall posture and well-being.

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About The Author
photo of Dr Oscar Noriega DC
Dr. Oscar Noriega, DC, is a trusted chiropractor who has been practicing for over ten years at Revolution Chiropractic Murfreesboro. He holds a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Northwestern Health Sciences University. Dr. Noriega is also a member of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association and the Tennessee Chiropractic Association. He resides in Murfreesboro with his wife and two children.