Trigger Points for Headache Relief – Sternocleidomastoid

sternocleidomastoideus muscle

Image via Wikipedia

The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) is muscle located on the anterior portion of the neck.  It becomes prominently visible when the head is turned to left or right. There are two of these muscles, and they both work to rotate the head, laterally flex the head, and elevate the chin.  The name of the sternocleidomastoid describes the attachments of this muscle to the body.  One end attaches to the mastoid process just behind the ear.  The distal end splits and attaches to both the clavicle and the sternum.

There are 3 trigger points that are located on the sternocleidomastoid. The first is located just underneath the mastoid process. The second is located about halfway between the mastoid and the sternal attachment ends of the muscle. The third is located about one fingerbreadth above the sternal head attachment. Any one of these, or all three may contribute to recurring type of headaches. In fact, if a trigger point is present, pressing them may result in a mild reproduction of the pain.  Pressing these trigger points may also create a familiar headache.  This would be a valid indication that sufferers have found at least one major contributor to their own headaches.

Trigger points in the SCM can contribute to pain in the temporal, occipital, and parietal areas of the skull. Sometimes pain in the jaw or pain behind the eye can be felt when pressing these trigger points.  Often, a headache in the forehead can be due to trigger points in the sternocleidomastoid. Rarely does the SCM exhibit pain at the site of the muscle. Hence, most of the pain is referral pain and felt in other parts of the head and neck area. Other issues that may arise from SCM tightness are:  toothache, dizziness, rhinitis, face pain, lacrimation, ptosis, and coryza.

Treatment:  Hold the head in a neutral position or slightly forward to disengage the SCM. It’s easier to massage the left SCM with the right hand and vice-versa. With the thumb on the inside (near trachea) and the fingers on the opposite side of the SCM, pinch the muscle between the fingers.  Grasp and release from the top of the muscle near the ear, all the way down to the sternal and clavicular ends.

Please note that if you are grasping and you feel a pulse, you are on a blood vessel.  Make sure that the thumb and fingers are fairly superficial and not grasping too deeply into the muscle tissue.  The sternocleidomastoid is a superficial muscle and should be palpated with ease.

Massage the SCM for 5-10 minutes twice a day, 3-4 times a week.

Warm Up With Cinnamon Chai Based on Chinese Herbal Medicine

Americans are fast becoming tea lovers.  Tea is growing in popularity here in the West.  There are different styles of tea and many teas have combinations of herbs, spices, fruit, etc., inside the steeping pot!  Each tea recipe has properties that can also improve your health.

At August Point Wellness, we observe the interaction between man and his environment.  As the environment changes, man should be able to adapt in order to stay healthy.  The theories of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are based on these observations.  With acupuncture, herbs, and other forms of therapy, August Point works with the client to achieve that harmony with nature.  In the interest of herbal medicine, we have decided to share our very first recipe for a warming, winter tea.

  • 1-2 tsp loose green tea
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or in a pinch, use 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/8 tsp sliced fresh ginger
  • 20 dried Goji berries
  • 1/2 tsp honey

Nature of this Tea Recipe:  Warm

TCM benefits:

  • Green tea – Cooling.  Balances the warm nature of herbs in this tea.
  • Cinnamon – Treats chills and fever without sweating
  • Clove – Tonify Kidney, Spleen, Stomach. tonify Yang.
  • Ginger – Warms Lung, strengthens Stomach, stops cough
  • Goji berry – Nourish Liver and Kidney, tonify Yin.
  • Honey – Tonify the Lung, Spleen, Large Intestine.

In a nutshell, this tea has properties of warming the center of the body, promoting healthy digestive function, keeping lungs moist, and preventing cold weather from injuring the body.  If you tend toward coldness in the winter time that chills you to the core, this tea helps your body regulate its temperature more sufficiently.  If you also tend to have poor digestion that gets worse in the winter time, this tea can provide benefit.  This tea will also help with that winter cough that has been lingering for weeks.  Try it!

Peppermint for a Happy Holiday Tummy!

The holiday season is here!  Peppermint chocolates, peppermint ice cream, peppermint toffee, peppermint cookies, peppermint martinis! Peppermint is inside of every edible creation around the holiday time.

For some, the peppermint craze only lasts through the holidays.  But for some IBS sufferers, peppermint is a year-round companion.  Herba piperita, as it is also known, has long been used for its benefits on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has used mint for centuries to aid such things as upper respiratory distress with sore throat, headaches from cold and flu, skin irritations, as well as nausea and upset stomach.  Peppermint, part of the mint family, is a cross between spearmint and water mint plants.  The peppermint plant contains a high amount of menthol, which is responsible for that cool feeling the peppermint has on the body.

Peppermint has been studied for its use in those affected by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Animal studies show that peppermint has a relaxation effect on GI tissue, and analgesic and anesthetic effects in the central and peripheral nervous system. In one research study, Grigoleit and Grigoleit found statistically significant effects in favor of peppermint oil for use in IBS cases presenting with non-serious constipation and diarrhea.  Another study, done by a group from Section of Digestive Sciences, Department of Medicine, G d’Annunzio University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy (Cappello, Spezzaferro, Grossi) specifically targeted IBS cases excluding bacterial overgrowth, lactose intolerance, and celiac patients.  75% of these patients showed significant improvement through the use of enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules.

Peppermint itself, can be found as a tea leaf, concentrated oil, enteric-coated capsule, or liquid for ingestion.  A recommendation would be to begin with a cup of peppermint tea daily.  If symptoms don’t improve, try two cups daily.  If there is still no relief, look into the enteric-coated capsule.  Enteric-coated capsules delay the release of the peppermint oil and is easier on the digestive tract.  Ingesting peppermint oil directly is harsh on the stomach and could cause heartburn, nausea and vomiting. So, this method should be dosed carefully.  Regardless, the most preferable form would be the plant form.  It is a complete, natural herbal remedy.  But, if necessary, the other forms may alleviate the IBS signs and symptoms as well.

So, break out the peppermint for the holidays.  And if you suffer from IBS or occasional digestive discomfort,  save a little peppermint for the rest of the year.

What a Pain in the A*s!

I recently went out to breakfast with my wife, brother-in-law and a friend.  We all slid into the booth and, like usual, I emptied the pockets of my jeans and loaded my keys, phone, and wallet onto my corner of the restaurant table.  To which my brother-in-law, Chris gasped in horror at my leather billfold.

He was absolutely floored at the size of my wallet.  Sitting a portly 3/4″ high on the table, the object of discussion gathered our attention.  Thinking I was wealthy beyond Derek Jeter proportions, I quickly assuaged my brother-in-law’s mind by emptying all 3 bills from it.  Total = $16.  Obviously, the next question that arose was “What the heck do you have in that wallet?”

Perplexed firstly by the fact that I never really noticed the sheer mass of it, I was even more perplexed to the fact that I’d been carrying around this bulging mass of leather for ages and I didn’t know what was inside.

“Well, let’s see…” and I proceeded to pull out random stuff from the wallet.  Supermarket club cards, college alumni cards, credit cards, library cards, insurance cards, old receipts, etc.  Some of the cards were 2 years expired and I was still lugging the useless plastic around for giggles.

The funny thing is that I, being a primary care physician, know that back-pocket wallets can be a precursor to a literal pain in the ass.  Continued sitting with a wallet in the back pocket can cause things like sciatic nerve impingement leading to sharp, shooting leg pain.  It can also cause low back pain from the ipsilateral lumbar muscles shortening in compensation for the left-to-right difference in ischial tuberosity heights while sitting.  Another complication could be irritation and twisting of the sacroiliac joint possibly changing the pelvic angle.

Luckily, I have had no back pain due to my wallet’s thickness.  Still, I have put my wallet on a diet and I’m exercising it down to a slim trim 3/8″.  I now leave the little used cards in my car with a rubber band safely holding them all together for when the need arises.

So do yourself a favor.  If you carry a wallet in your back pocket that is more than 3/8″ thick and you suffer from low back pain or sciatica, try moving the wallet to your front pocket for a couple of months.  See if the low back pain and/or gluteal pain subsides.  Or, get a money clip.  Try carrying only the things that you need to.  Store important card membership numbers in your phone.  At the worst case with a wallet in your front pocket, you won’t have to worry about another pain in the ass, pickpockets.