Term of the month – Sternocleidomastoid, and Essential Oil of the month – Lemon

Term of the month:

scm anatomy

Today we introduce you to a very important and vital anatomical feature, but one that can also be at times a source of pain and tension. Its name is Sternocleidomastoid, but at parties it introduces itself as SCM (ba-dum tsss). It’s a muscle, and you have two of them –  one on each side of your neck. It’s that thick, strong cord that appears from your ear to your clavicle, when turning your head away from it, like gorgeous Caitlin kindly illustrates for us, here. (Side note, you know you’ve reached peak anatomy nerd when your idea of a good time is getting together with your massage therapy friends for blog photos and everyone ends up giving really nice compliments to each other’s SCMs. “Yours is so pretty and strong looking!” “Wow, look how nice yours looks with your necklace!” Et cetera.)



The SCM gets its name because it originates at the manubrium of the sternum (sterno-) and the clavicle (cleido-), and has an insertion at the mastoid process of the temporal bone of the skull. It is innervated by the accessory nerve.

The function of this muscle is to rotate the head to the opposite side – to obliquely rotate the head. It also flexes the neck. When both sides of the muscle act together, it flexes the neck and extends the head. When one side acts alone, it causes the head to rotate to the opposite side and flexes laterally to the same side (ipsilaterally). Next time you’re looking both ways while crossing a street, or dancing, or turning your head to window-shop, or basically anything else involving your neck, give a little shout out to your SCMs, because they are helping you to make these things possible.

They also, along with the scalene muscles of the neck, act as accessory muscles of respiration. These babies help you breathe!

We share about these with you because as awesome as they are, they can also get stressed out. Our necks, in general, can be places with which to store tension, as many of you already know, and we use them 24/7, while typing and texting, while driving, and even while sleeping. Massage can help release the tension stored in these muscles, and so can gentle periodic stretches throughout the day – slowly tilting your head and chin up and away from each side, one at a time.



Essential Oil of the month:


Lemon is a wonderful oil to have on hand. It is a great mood booster! Its scent is fresh and bright, which well-matches its amazing functionality, and that is that it is naturally deodorizing. Lemon also blends well with other oils. A couple of our favorites to blend with, at Urban Massage, are lavender or eucalyptus.

Lemon essential oil is useful in the household too, as the citric acid in the lemon is a natural degreaser. Try a few drops to remove gum, grease or crayons.