What is Scalene Muscles and What is its Function?

The Scalene Muscles are located in the neck and are not a single muscle but a group of muscles which course from the cervical vertebrae to the upper two ribs of the body. These muscles are innervated by the branches of the cervical and brachial plexus. The Scalene Muscles are divided into three separate muscles. These muscles are scalenus anterior muscle, scalenus medius muscle, scalenus posterior muscle. Coming to the function of the Scalene Muscles, they are used in breathing as they elevate the ribs during process of taking in air for breathing. Scalene muscles also facilitate movement of the neck from side to side and also bending the neck in front.

Any sort of damage or strain to the scalene muscles may result in severe scalene muscle pain causing neck pain and difficulty moving the neck. The Scalene Muscles can be strained due to poor sitting posture, a whiplash injury due to a motor vehicle accident or sitting for long periods of time without moving the neck such as when sitting in front of a computer. Treatment for scalene muscle strain involves hot and cold pack along with certain neck exercise which will be described below.

Scalene Muscle Strain

Signs and Symptoms of Scalene Muscles Strain

The symptoms of scalene muscle strain are much similar to many medical conditions and may be mistaken for a serious illness rather than just a strained muscle. The patient with Scalene Muscles Strain can experience pain in the neck radiating to the chest, shoulder, and arm area. The patient will also find it difficult to move the neck from side to side or bend the neck forwards.

What Can Cause Scalene Muscle Strain?

Some of the possible causes which may result in Scalene Muscles Strain are:

Poor breathing techniques or people who are suffering from breathing problems are more prone to strain the Scalene Muscles.

Frequent bouts of coughing either due to a medical illness or environmental allergens can result in putting too much pressure on the Scalene Muscles and thus straining them.

Some of the medical conditions which may result in Scalene Muscles Strain are:

Some of the activities which may result in Scalene Muscles Strain are:

  • Sitting in front of the computer for long periods of time without much neck movement can cause the scalene muscles to get strained.
  • Working with the arms overhead repetitively and for long periods of time may also result in straining or injuring the scalene muscles.
  • Athletes playing basketball where they have to lift their arms repetitively.
  • Heavy lifting, pushing, and pulling activities can cause scalene muscle strain.
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Wearing heavy backpacks especially during hiking expeditions
  • Trauma to the neck with significant jarring of the muscles such as when in a motor vehicle accident.

What is the Treatment for Scalene Muscles Strain?

The treatment for Scalene Muscles Strain or injury starts with first improving the neck posture. You need to make sure that you keep moving the neck when sitting in front of the computer. You need to identify what may have been the cause of the strained scalene muscle and if it has been caused due to something which can be avoided then eliminating those activities may be of help. Always use a pillow which is neither too high nor too low such that the Scalene Muscles are in traction at the time of sleeping at night.

Using moist heating pad on the neck after a long day at work just before you sleep also is quite helpful in calming the stressed scalene muscles.

Try and avoid slouching forward when working to avoid straining the Scalene Muscles.

You can also try NSAIDs for calming down the inflammation and reduce the scalene muscle pain.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 4, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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