There are 3 important muscles on both sides of the neck known as anterior, middle and posterior scalene muscles. The scalene muscles serve as stabilizers when the body is upright.
Common activities that cause scalene pain include head turned to one side for long periods while working or sleeping and whiplash injuries from motor vehicle accidents. When a car is forcefully hit, the body moves quickly with the vehicle and the head stays stationary for a brief moment. These quick and forceful movements can strain the muscles in the neck.
Improper breathing technique can lead to scalene muscle injury. These muscles attach to the upper ribs and sometimes contract improperly to aid in breathing. These muscles lift the upper ribs in order to expand the chest wall. Belly breathing can help take pressure off of these muscles.
A little bit of soft tissue work on these muscles makes a big difference. The person performing the massage should be careful not to disturb the large blood vessels that pass through this area. The color of the patient's lips is also important to pay attention to. Lips become pale when the scalene muscles are overworked. It is possible for trigger points to develop in these muscles and they tend to refer pain into the shoulders and possibly down the arms as well.
Active care takes the form of light stretching exercises in order to reduce tension and tightness. There is at least one exercise for each one of the scalene muscles you can do at home. Call a chiropractic office to make an appointment with a chiropractor for examination of your condition and learn about proper position for more effective stretching of these muscles.