The 5 Best Sternocleidomastoid Stretches

The Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) is a neck muscle that is generally tight in the vast majority of people.

It may be involved with issues such as:

This blog post post contains the 5 best ways to perform Sternocleidomastoid stretches.

Do this first:

Before performing the following Sternocleidomastoid stretches, loosen up the tight neck muscle first with the following 2 release techniques.

a) Release

Sternocleidomastoid release


  • Locate the Sternocleidomastoid muscle.
    • (Use Google if you are not sure where it is.)
  • You should be able to feel a prominent band of muscle on each side of the neck. (see above)
  • Do not to press too deep as you may hit other sensitive structures of the neck.
  • Gently massage these muscles with a pinch grip.
  • Make sure to cover the entire length of the muscle.
  • Duration1 minute per side.

b) Glides

Sternocleidomastoid glide


  • Make a gentle fist with the hand.
  • Tilt your head towards the opposite side.
  • Place the back portion of the fingers against the side of the neck.
  • Apply a firm pressure into the muscle.
  • Starting at the collar bone, perform slow upwards strokes towards the area behind the ear.
  • Perform 5-10 strokes.

The 5 best Sternocleidomastoid Stretches

Disclaimer: The content presented on this blog post is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Use of the content provided on this blog post is at your sole risk. For more informationMedical disclaimer.


  • Make sure that you can feel the stretch specifically in the Sternocleidomastoid.
  • Do not push into pain.
  • Stretching is all about a game angles. Position yourself to produce the most effective stretch.
  • Perform the stretches 2-3/day.

1. My favorite Sternocleidomastoid stretch

sternocleidomastoid stretches


  • Sit in front of a table.
  • Keep your chin in and down throughout this stretch.
  • Place your left fist on the left side of your chin.
  • Place your left elbow onto the table in front of you.
  • Rest the weight of your head onto your fist.
  • Tilt your head to the left.
  • Apply further pressure to the chin to increase the stretch.
  • Aim to feel a firm stretch in the right side of the neck.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Perform on the other side.

2. SCM Stretch

sternocleidomastoid scm stretch


  • Tuck your chin in and downwards.
  • Tilt your head to the left.
  • Place your left hand on the rights side of your head.
  • Apply a downward pressure.
  • Slowly turn your head to the right.
  • Aim to feel a firm stretch in the right Sternocleidomastoid.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on other side.

3. SCM stretch Variation

stretch to sternocleidomastoid


  • Place your fingers on top of your right collar bone.
  • Pull the skin downwards.
  • Tuck your chin in and down.
  • Slowly turn your head towards the right side.
  • Tilt your head towards the left.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the right Sternocleidomastoid.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on other side.

4. Chair lean

scm stretch using chair


  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Using your right hand, hold onto the side of the chair.
  • Keep your shoulder completely relaxed.
  • Lean your body completely towards the left.
  • Tuck your chin in and downwards.
  • Tilt your head towards the left.
  • Place your left hand on the right side of your head
  • Apply a downward pressure.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the right Sternocleidomastoid.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on other side.

5. Neck Elongation

scm elongation stretch
  • Tuck your chin in and downwards.
  • Slide your head towards the right side.
  • Elongate the right side of your neck in an upwards direction.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the right side of the neck.
  • Alternate sides.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.


A tight Sternocleidomastoid muscle can lead to several issues such as neck stiffness, reduced range of motion, headaches and postural dysfunctions..

Try out the suggested Sternocleidomastoid stretches to help loosen up your neck.

You do not need to do all of them. Pick the one that gives you the most relief. (… and do it regularly!)

What to do next

1. Any questions?… (Leave me a comment down below.)

2. Come join me:

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3. Start doing the exercises!

24 thoughts on “The 5 Best Sternocleidomastoid Stretches”

  1. Hi Mark,
    I suffered a severe injury about 10 years ago- an over-zealous relative went in for a hug and used their shoulder to jab me in the side of the neck- akin to a throat punch but on the side. I immediately felt my throat swell up, lost my voice and had trouble swallowing and breathing. Went to multiple doctors and ERs who mis-diagnosed me from everything from making it up to reactive airway disease to GERD. I finally realized my SCM was somehow damaged as it would pop whenever i tried to stretch it and sometimes spasms all in the same spot. I had a lot of referred pain and vertigo. Sore throat so many times the doctors thought I had Mono. I am pretty sure I have some type of scar tissue 2/3 down my SCM. Had some relief these past few years, but it has come back and reared its head after a case of Bronchitis. However, I just found these exercises and they provide immediate relief. Thank you for saving me and giving me hope for a normal life.

    • Hey Lauren,

      That’s an intense hug!

      So good to hear there has been good improvements with your symptoms from performing some of the stretches mentioned on this blog post.

      Hopefully with a bit of consistency and time with the stretches, your symptoms will disappear completely!


  2. Hi Mark, I recently had C4-5 total disc arthroplasty via right anterior approach, and my right SCM is extremely tight and I also have a flattened cervical lordosis. I just wanted to ask if there was any additional stretching technique I could use. I definitely intend to try what you have on this website. I have been doing most of these stretches already. I am a PT myself by the way and I’ve also started outpatient PT two weeks ago. I am about two months postop and have been cleared by my surgeon to stretch the cervical spine. And if you also have any scar management techniques, mine is bumpy in places and adherent in others. I have been using Mederma cream, doing scar massage about twice a day and also using silicone scar sheets. TIA :)

    • Hey Harpreet,

      In addition to these stretches, I like performing fascial glides on the SCM as well. I find that this is really helpful in improving movement.

      If you have a flattened cervical lordosis, I would also check to see if you have a degree of forward head posture. See post: Exercises for Forward Head Posture.

      Also consider making sure your Deep neck flexors are functioning properly as they can be inhibited following a surgery. See post: Deep neck flexor activation.

      Keep working on that scar tissue as well. You can try a “pin and stretch” technique which can help with the mobility of the scar.

      All the best!


  3. Came across this post trying to find SCM stretches because the right side of my neck always feels really tight, and wow, the first table stretch (your favorite one) felt amazing. I don’t like doing the usual neck tilts and I could really feel that one during and afterwards.

  4. Hey Mark!

    Your whole website is a God send for me. I would like to take a moment to just say thank you from the bottom of my heart; I’m 23 years old and have a bad case of upper and lower crossed syndrome from years of playing guitar and piano and video games when younger. I have APT, forward head, flared ribs, lunate lordosis, thoracic kyphosis; pretty much everything on your blog except the sway back stuff! Im also tall and thin so i think that exacerbates my issue. I have found that the deepest root problem is that my left SCM muscle is INCREDIBLY tense which causes my head to tilt to the right; relaxing it allows me to actually extend my spine and relax (it’s glorious!) with it relaxed i can finally reach a place of total alignment and finally activate and stretch all my muscles properly. I was curious on your input as to how to proceed from here. I will obviously do these moves for the SCM first because they are helping A LOT and i found them 10 minutes ago, but is there on order I should tackle the remaining issues/your opinion my issue in general would be very valuable :) thank you so much and please let me know if there’s a way i can return the favor for all the valuable information you have provided on how to work towards relieving my body of tension!

    • Hi Andrew,

      Wow – that is awesome that you found the left SCM seems to unlock the rest of your body. How did you come to this conclusion? I am intrigued!

      In terms of where to go from here, although there is really no wrong area to start, you might find that addressing certain areas will actually improve other areas.

      For example – addressing APT and thoracic spine kyphosis will usually improve the hyperlordosis,flared ribs and forward head posture. So – it might be an idea to start at the pelvis and/or thoracic spine.

      Let me know if you have any more questions. More than happy to help. (Feel free to follow me on the facebook page too!)

  5. Are these stretches safe to do for someone with EDS? My SCM muscles are overactive and causing bad ear pain for me, and these exercises look like they will help a lot. Should I modify them to protect the joints, or perform as is? Thanks!

    • Hi Sarah,

      You will need to be very careful with stretching if you have EDS. You can still perform light stretches, but over stretching may eventually lead to other issues.

      Do you know why your SCM is overactive? Do you have a forward head posture? Any weakness in the Deep neck flexors? Perhaps your head is tilted towards one side?


      • Thank you for your reply :) I had surgery for a fusion of C6/7 2 years ago, and have weakness in the muscles at the front of my neck (forward head posture is an issue). I’ve been working on strengthening the front muscles, but my right clavicle is subluxed slightly forward and up. Most likely a result of the overly tight SCM?

        Recently it’s been bad enough to give me constant, severe ear pain (both sides). So I’m hoping if I can get the SCM to ease up, it will alleviate that. Which led me to your helpful stretches guide :)

  6. These stretches are excellent. I really appreciate how each stretch is explained and demonstrated clearly. I am a physical therapist assistant student and all the studying has caused a lot of neck stiffness. Thank you!

  7. Great techniques,

    Lots of good ideas for stretches there; I’m pretty sure I overdid it on the chest and triceps dips and now I have headaches referring to around and above my eyes, especially when I lean and stoop down and forward. Massage focus on this muscle and finding your stretching techniques is helping to resolve the issue.

  8. I have been battling idiopathic neuropathy of the Accessory Nerve for a couple of years. I am finally seeing some improvement, but as a result of the problem my sternocleidomastoid on my left side is extremely weak and has atrophied. I need to rebuild this muscle. Do you know any exercises that will isolate and target this muscle for strengthening?

    • Hi there,

      The SCM is involved with neck rotation, lateral flexion and flexion. Any head movement involving these movements will definitely engage the SCM.

      You can try these ones to start off with:
      1. Lie on you side and lift your head up wards the roof. (Lateral flexion)
      2. Whilst sitting up right, place your hand on the side of your head and start to turn your head into your head. (Rotation)
      3. Whilst sitting up right, place your head on the forehead and start to nod your head downwards (Flexion)

      Hope it helps.



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