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Diana Remaley, LMT
19 Compo Road South
Westport, CT

The Mermaid Stretch

For your neck and jaw tension

Stress. Tension. A tight neck. Headaches. It's definitely the time of year for these common complaints. Your sternocleidomastoid muscle can often be the culprit. We use this muscle constantly when we keep our head up, and even a tax it a little more when we keep our heads slightly forward, such as when using a computer or driving. It can also be related to terrible jaw pain and aches, as it attaches to the jawbone. What can we do to alleviate this pain? The “mermaid” stretch.

Anatomy Lesson:

The sternocleidomastoid (or “SCM”) is a conveniently named muscle, in that it tells us where it attaches in it's name. “Sterno” tells us this muscle attaches to the sternum, right next to the collarbone in the center of the chest; “cleido” indicates the clavicle, or collarbone; and “mastoid” is the name of the edge of the temporal bone of the skull, that is, the edge we feel directly below our ears.

It's also one of the most superficial muscles in the body, meaning it's very easy to feel. That also means it's very easy to test for tension and stretch! To feel your SCM muscle most easily, lie flat on your back, turn your head to either side, and lift it toward the ceiling. Touch your neck and you'll feel a giant muscle pop up. This is your SCM. Knowing that we need to turn our head to feel this muscle gives us a clue about how to stretch it, as we'll discuss below.



The Stretch:

Lie on one side of your body, legs stacked, with your lower arm perpendicular to the rest of your body, out in front of you, palm up. Try to keep a straight line in your entire body, rather than bending your legs at the hip; activate your core muscles by pulling your belly button into your spine. Raise your top arm directly up, toward the ceiling, holding it straight.


Drop your head to the floor. This is the crucial element of the stretch; we learned that turning our head activates this muscle, and turning it away in this position is the opposite motion, which will relax and stretch it. At this point, you can drop your head straight down to the floor, or even play with the angle of your chin to stretch different points of the muscle where they connect to your jaw.


With your head still dropped, stretch your top arm over your head, trying to touch the wall nearest your head.

Slowly move your arm toward your body, imagining dragging your fingers across the ceiling.

If you notice a point where your arm is moving and your SCM feels tighter, pause and move your arm and/or jaw in little circles. This will help move the smaller muscle fibers in that particular area.

Hold the stretch in any position for as long as you feel you need to. Repeat on the other side.

This is my absolute favorite stretch to perform after sitting for a long time, such as in a car or at a class. If you notice a little tension in your jaw after talking and partying, give this stretch a try. It has been shown to be involved in jaw pain and headaches. You might be surprised to note how tense this muscle is when you stretch it! If you feel more neck pain than can be helped, it's time to book a massage therapy session with me. I'll see you in my Westport office!

December & January Monthly Special - A 60 Minute Gift Certificate for only $75 (Save $20!)

My biggest discount of the year!

It's no secret that this is a busy time of year for most of us.  So why not take some much-needed personal time with a massage!  Of course, altruism may demand that you also buy gifts for loved ones - but don't forget about yourself!  You may purchase as many gift certificates as you like and redeem them at your leisure.  Click "Purchase a Gift Certificate" at the top of this page to buy.  Enjoy, and I'll see you (and hopefully your friends and family!) in my Westport office!

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Diana Remaley, LMT
19 Compo Road South
Westport, CT