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Have a vulture neck from looking at a monitor too long? This muscle needs to be stretched.

Updated: Jul 28, 2021

The sternocleidomastoid muscles might be tight. Here is how to stretch them.

About the muscle

This is a round muscle close to the skin at the front of the neck. To easily locate the muscle, stand in front of a mirror and turn your head to one side. It will be the muscle that sticks out on the side of the neck.

It gets its long name because it is a two-headed muscle – it attaches to the sternum (sterno-), and the clavicle (-cleido-) and it inserts into the mastoid process of the temporal bone (-mastoid).

Each muscle tilts and rotates the head to the side. When working together they also assist in forceful inhalation and tilts the bottom of the neck forward and the head backward. If they are tight, you get vulture neck!

Symptoms of Tightness

  • Headache at the top of the head

  • Problems aligning the head straight above the spine

Flexibility Test

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent

  • Put one of your hands behind your neck on the floor and try to push your neck toward the floor

  • You should be able to push your neck against your hand

If you do not have the required range of motion or it is tight getting to the end-range, you probably have a tight sternocleidomastoid muscle. Before you stretch the muscle, release it by going here. This will make stretching better as adhesions and trigger points have been eased.

Stretch it out

This exercise can be done sitting or standing.

  1. Find the muscle’s attachment point on the right side of the clavicle just above the sternum (breastbone)

  2. Place three fingers of the left hand over the bottom inch of the muscle

  3. Put your right hand on top of the fingers to keep them there

  4. Move your head slightly backward and lift the chin up and to the left until you feel the stretch on the right side of your neck

  5. Keep your jaw shut

  6. Hold for 10 seconds then return to starting position

  7. Repeat 2 more times

  8. Repeat for the other side

This stretch should be done every day and even several times a day. No more vulture neck!


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