Scalene Muscle Exercises

Woman massage her neck

Are your shoulder blades feeling tight? Do you carry extra pressure in your neck and upper chest? It may be your scalene muscle. Located on each side of your neck, the scalene muscle branches into three sections and is often a source of pain in the shoulder, upper limb and cervical spine regions. If tense enough, the scalene muscle may refer pain as far as your forearm or hand.


The scalene muscle needs to be properly stretched and strengthened in order to safely function. Exercise provides the proper postural alignment, decreases stress so pain is no longer referred, reduces the risk of spinal injury by stabilizing the cervical spine, maintains neck range of motion, and eases the inhalation process. Due to the nerves and veins that pass through the scalene muscle, clear any exercise with your doctor prior to participation.


To release any built-up tension caused by a tight scalene muscle, stand with your chest out and shoulders relaxed. Gently lower your right ear toward your right shoulder. Feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds; repeat three times on each side. Stretching the scalene muscle will reduce referred pain and correct any postural imbalances due to tense musculature in the neck.


Self-massage is another way to reduce the pressure and tension of a tight scalene muscle. Gently place the tips of the fingers on your right hand on the left side of your neck. Hold with slight pressure on a spot on the side of the neck. Repeat in a slightly different area of the neck and to both sides. Add a stroke: Begin by placing the fingertips of your right hand on the left side of the neck, under the ear. Gently add pressure and run the fingers down the neck toward your collarbone and shoulder. Repeat 5 to 10 times on both sides of the neck.


Sit in a comfortable chair. Place the palm of your right hand on the right side of your head. This hand acts as a stabilizer in the exercise. Begin to move your right ear toward your right shoulder while maintaining the resistance provided by your right hand. Repeat 8 to 12 times on each side. By strengthening the scalene muscle you will increase your ability to stabilize your cervical spine, which reduces the risk of a future injury.