Scalene Muscle Stretch

Video Transcript:

Your scalenes, or specifically your anterior scalene muscle, runs in the front portion of your neck. The problem with these muscles is that when you’re sitting for hours and hours per day, for days, weeks, months and years, and you’re in a hunched slouched posture, these scalene muscles become gradually shorter and tighter.

So how do you stretch your anterior scalene muscle? If we’re focusing on stretching our left scalene muscle, what we’re going to do is we’re going to tilt our head towards our right shoulder. We rotate upwards so I’m kind of looking up at the ceiling slightly, and then I tilt my chin up just ever so slightly and I’m going to feel it pulling in the front portion of my neck.

If you’re looking carefully you can probably see some of those anterior scalene muscle fibers actually pulling. I can definitely feel that through there.

I hold this position here for about 30 seconds, then I’m going to very gently, very carefully come back towards neutral. Now I’m going to focus on stretching my right anterior scalene muscle. I tilt my head the opposite way towards the left hand side. Just doing this you’ll probably feel some of that stretching. Then I rotate up towards the ceiling, then I’m going to tilt my chin up just slightly.

I hold this position for about 30 seconds, then I’m just going back very gently back towards neutral.
When you’re doing this stretch you want to do these movements very gently, very slowly as the movement of side tilting your neck, rotation, and slight extension can put some pressure on to your neck. So you want to do this very slowly and very gently.

It’s not about changing these muscles overnight, as that will not happen anyways, it’s going to take time. You want to hold that position for about 30 seconds.

You want to try to give each side two to three repetitions, 2-3 times holding each time approximately 30 seconds. Ideally repeat this exercise once per day, if not twice per day.

If you experience any pain during this scalene stretch, please stop, and look for a modification or alternative.

Any questions, please ask.

What is a Scalene Muscle Stretch?

The scalene muscles are a group of muscles in the front of your neck which due to poor posture commonly become very tight, which contributes to limited neck motion and neck pain. This scalene stretch is designed to decrease tension in the muscle, increase movement, and decrease neck pain.

Scalene Muscle Stretch Instructions:

  • Step 1

    Begin in neutral standing or sitting posture.

  • Step 2

    To stretch your left scalene, begin by tilting your head gently towards your right shoulder. Go as far as you can go comfortably. Just this motion will start to stretch some of your neck muscles.

  • Step 3

    Once at the end of your side tilting, then gently and slowly rotate your head towards the left, so that you are looking slightly over your left shoulder. Hold this position momentarily.

  • Step 4

    The last part is to then extend your chin or tilt your chin up just slightly, so that you feel a pulling sensation under the front side of the left side of your neck, in your anterior scalenes.

  • Step 5

    Hold this position for approximately 30 seconds.

  • Step 6

    Once done, return very slowly and gradually towards neutral, and repeat on the opposite side, reversing the instructions, as shown in the video.

  • Step 7

    For some people, getting into the correct position with your neck may be difficult. Don’t force this stretch. If at any point it is painful, please stop.

  • Step 8

    Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, and repeat 2-3 times per side, ideally once per day, or 2x per day.

  • Step 9

    For other helpful neck stretches, refer to the SCM stretch video, and the neck stretching compilation video.

Read More About Scalene Muscle Stretch Below

In this video you will learn how to stretch your scalenes. Please follow the video carefully to perform the stretch properly.

Learning how to do a scalene stretch properly is important especially if you sit all day, as poor posture and the associated anterior head carriage or forward head posture can over time lead to tight scalene muscles, neck pain and eventually even thoracic outlet syndrome, resulting in symptoms like numbness, tingling or pain down into your arm and hands.

A couple key points. For some people with limited neck movement, getting into the correct position for the stretch may be difficult. If this is the case, gradually ease your way into it. Do not force it. There should never be pain associated with this neck stretch. Tension is normal, neck pain with it is not.

If it is painful, please stop, and start more gently, or consider a different approach.

For other great neck stretches, please refer to the SCM Stretch video, and the Neck Stretches compilation video.

Any questions, please ask.

For further neck exercises for stretches for postural correction and forward head posture or text neck, refer to our neck pain Toronto condition page here:

Experiencing Pain or Discomfort ?

We can help!

Request Appointment​

New Patient - Priority Scheduling

Please fill out the form below, including all the required fields, and receive priority new patient scheduling.