Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Scalene Muscle Group

 Today is a special Muscle Monday because we are going to 
talk about a GROUP of 3 muscles on either side of your neck called The ScalenesAnterior (front), Middle, and Posterior (back).
Each Scalene muscle starts along various levels alongside your cervical (neck) spine - each muscle then travel under your collarbone attaching to your first 2 ribs directly below! More specifically, Anterior and Middle attach to your first rib, while Posterior attaches to 2nd rib.

Middle Scalene is the largest and longest of the three
  and Posterior is the shortest/smallest

Can you see the triangle shape they occupy? See what makes up the borders of this triangle? SCM muscle Upper Traps (coming soon!) and your collarbone!
MUSCLE MOVEMENT: what do they do?
Together, the Scalenes help to:
- nod your head ''yes'' (flexion) 
- bringing ear to shoulder of the same side (side flexion)
- elevate the 1st and 2nd ribs!

 Tight scalenes are very common! Every time we're using our phones we are putting scalenes in a shortened state. You can never stretch em' enough! Here's how!

SCALENE STRETCH: to access all 3 scalenes, perform each of the following stretches! Remember to do both sides of the neck!

TO STRETCH: For all 3 scalenes, to begin we want to lower the shoulder of the side we are stretching >SEATED: hold onto bottom of chair (elbow straight)

To Stretch the LEFT sided scalenes:

Anterior: slowly bring your right ear to your right shoulder(side flexion) and then slowly look up and slightly to the left 

Middle: side flexion (right ear towards right shoulder) to feel more of stretch you can use your hand to guide stretch further..

Posterior  slowly bring your chin towards your right shoulder. Again, gently use your hand to intensify stretch.

To stretch the RIGHT side : do the opposite!

STRETCHING GUIDELINES: hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds (max 2min) move slowly and trust your natural instincts so as to avoid injury. Relax and BREATHE. Find your limit with out going over that limit : should extreme discomfort arise slowly back out of stretch. 
*muscles stretch best when they are warm - a great time to stretch is post warm shower or bath! more

Issues with the Scalenes:

All kinds of discomfort can often be originating from issues with Scalenes, even though the discomfort is felt in other areas:
Pain patterns can vary due to the various attachment points of this group.

 Pain can refer to the chest, shoulder, and down the arm and into the hands, even into the head and behind the eyes!

TIGHT SCALENES can cause a type of "thoracic outlet syndrome" or 'TOS' where a bundle of nerves that run between anterior and middle scalenes  becomes constricted.  This results in pain, tingling, or numbness felt down the arm and into the hand. 

 A tight middle scalene can even pull the 1st rib up against the clavicle (collarbone) -eep ! No thanks!

What's the CAUSE?
Tight scalenes can develop a number of ways; post car accident OR more commonly: repetitive strain due to  bad posture and improper desk/computer ergonomics  
Tight scalenes have been known to be the underlying cause of conditions like frozen shoulder and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (imagine getting carpal tunnel surgery on your wrist when the culprit could very well be the scalenes!

We see a lot of tight scalenes on shallow breathers ! Scalenes are considered secondary breathing muscles, that's why  It's so important to practice deep belly breathing (diaphragmatic) so that the scalenes  don't become overworked and can relax !  
Practice the three scalene stretches we shared earlier! Or come to Sage for an amazing head neck & shoulder massage ! Your scalenes will thank you!