Tight neck muscles causing ear problems
August 11, 2022

Sometimes we feel severe pain in our neck and while we’re trying to figure out the cause we also start to feel pain in our ear. And we get confused between both. Well, this condition is more commonly known as sternocleidomastoid. This means tight neck muscles causing ear problems.

It is the upper superficial muscle, which means that it is just below the skin, not the neck. It adheres to the mastoid process, which is part of the bone just behind the jaw and below the ear. The muscle relaxes down the neck and ends where the chest bone and collarbone meet.

The sternocleidomastoid helps with the movement and balance of the head. A muscle is visible when a person moves their head from side to side. It also plays a role in rotating, tilting, and enlarging the head and neck. Because of its important role in supporting the head, any problems affecting the posture can irritate the body. Sudden headaches and other forms of trauma can also cause pain and injury.

List some common Symptoms:

Usually, people with a sternocleidomastoid injury do not feel pain at the site of the injury. Instead, pain often spreads to other parts of the body. The most common symptoms include:

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Throat pain when swallowing

  • Headaches, including migraine-like headaches

  • Pain in the sinuses or nose

  • Pain on left side of windpipe.

  • neck stiffness, including difficulty rotating the head from side to side

  • tingling in the face, head, or neck.

  • unexplained ear pain, which may present as soreness, aching, or a sense of fullness in the ear

  • Pain in front of neck

  • pain in the face or the front of the head

  • pain in or above the eyes

Neck pain in front of neck can range from mild to minor and can easily be undiagnosed and interfere with daily activities, such as being able to dress, concentrate, or sleep. Sometimes neck pain can cause a stiff neck and reduce the range of motion.

Some common causes:

Most people with sternocleidomastoid pain have less pain due to a combination of health problems. When the muscle has to hold its head in an uncomfortable position, it can gradually become irritated and painful.

Other causes of sternocleidomastoid pain include:

  • Carrying a heavy object, such as a baby or a backpack, in a strange place

  • An unpleasant situation, for example, is when a person spends long days chasing a computer or stiffening his neck to access things in the garden.

  • An unpleasant workstation structure that causes a person to hold his neck in an uncomfortable position

  • Discomfort or injury to other muscles of the shoulder, neck, or back

  • Holding the wire between the ear and the shoulder

  • Sleeping in the wrong way or in an uncomfortable pillow

  • Gradually, other factors can cause sternocleidomastoid pain.

Less frequently, some other factors may cause sternocleidomastoid pain. They include:

  • Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is a type of muscle pain that causes the first muscle points. One may feel pain from other areas when pressing on these trigger points. Many people with myofascial pain experience symptoms following injury or as a result of chronic lifestyle problems, such as poor posture.

  • Trauma

A fall, a collision on the side of the neck, or a car accident can injure the neck muscles, causing tension, sprains, and other injuries. However, a person does not have to fall or be seriously injured in order to injure that organ. The 2014 case report provides details of a broken sternocleidomastoid following a seizure.

  • Arthritis

Arthritis of the spine can cause sternocleidomastoid pain. It can also cause the person to change position or move the head in a way that increases the risk of injury.

What ear problems can we face?

We may experience ear infections or wax in our age due to tight neck muscles.

  • Ear Infection

Infection of the middle ear (otitis media) is inflammation of the middle ear. There are two types of this type of ear infections, which are dangerous and chronic. Acute otitis media is usually short-lived, and chronic otitis media usually lasts a few weeks. Infants, toddlers, and children with middle ear infections may get irritated, pull and pull at their ears, and experience many other signs and symptoms. Treatment depends on the type of ear infection.

  • Ear Wax

Earwax (ear wax) is a natural substance produced by special glands in the skin in the outer part of the ear canal. It repels water and traps dust and sand particles. Usually, a small amount of glue accumulates, dries, and then comes out of the ear carrying unwanted particles. Under the right circumstances, you should never clean your ear canals. Lack of earwax can cause dry, itchy ears, and even infections. Ear wax may accumulate in the ear for a variety of reasons including; reduction of the ear canal, production of a small ear canal due to aging, or overproduction of the ear canal in response to trauma or obstruction within the ear canal.

How can we diagnose?

The doctor will begin the diagnosis of sternocleidomastoid injury by asking the person for his / her symptoms and his / her recent medical history and activities. It is important to tell the doctor all the symptoms, even if they do not seem to be related, as injuries to the body can cause a variety of symptoms that seem unrelated.

The doctor will then examine the body and ask the person to perform voluntary movements. This may reveal weakness or stiffness due to poor posture, chronic muscle weakness, or heavy lifting.

An imaging scan may be necessary for the physician to obtain a detailed view of the muscles and surrounding structures. Ultrasound can help them diagnose sternocleidomastoid trauma, while X-rays can remove broken bones.

How tight muscle causes ear problems?

Contrary to popular belief, the position and movement of your spine and neck can have a profound effect on the function of the inner ear. This is because the upper cervical spine is indirectly responsible for controlling the tone of the muscles near the eustachian tubes. The twin eustachian tubes connect the middle ear with the upper throat and nose (the area known as the nasopharynx). When the lining of these canals is under pressure, the eustachian tube may close or fill with fluid.

Sternocleidomastoid pain exercises and stretches

Set aside at least 15 minutes per day to do some type of simple stretches or yoga poses. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Yoga practice can provide overall stretching and relaxation benefits. Here are two poses of varying difficulty that may help your neck muscles in time:

Revolved Triangle

  1. Stand with your feet about 4 feet apart.

  2. Face your right toes forward and your left toes out at a slight angle.

  3. Square your hips and face forward in the same direction your right toes are pointing.

  4. Lift your arms up at your sides so they’re parallel to the floor.

  5. Slowly hinge at your hips to fold forward, stopping when your torso is parallel to the floor.

  6. Bring your left hand to your leg, the floor, or a block, wherever you can reach.

  7. Extend your right arm straight up with your palm facing away from your body.

  8. Turn your gaze to look up toward your right thumb.

  9. Exhale to turn your neck to look down at the floor.

  10. Inhale as you return your gaze upward.

  11. Keep the rest of your body stable and continue these neck rotations as you stay in the pose for up to 1 minute.

  12. Perform on the opposite side.

Upward Plank

This pose allows you to passively hang your head back and down, releasing tension in your neck and shoulders. This lengthens and stretches the SCM, chest, and shoulder muscles.

Make sure the back of your neck is fully relaxed to avoid compressing your spine. If it’s uncomfortable for you to let your head hang back, you can tuck your chin into your chest and lengthen the back of your neck. Focus on engaging your neck muscles without straining.

You can also allow your head to hang back on some type of support such as a chair, the wall, or stacked blocks.

  1. Come into a seated position with your legs extended in front of you.

  2. Press your palms to the floor alongside your hips.

  3. Lift your hips and bring your feet under your knees.

  4. Deepen the pose by straightening your legs.

  5. Open your chest and let your head drop back.

  6. Hold for up to 30 seconds.

  7. Do this pose up to 3 times.

If you’re doing these poses as part of a full yoga session, be sure to do them after you’ve warmed up.

Neck rotations

  1. Sit or stand facing forward.

  2. Exhale and slowly turn your head to the right, keeping your shoulders relaxed and down.

  3. Inhale and return to the center.

  4. Exhale and turn to look over your left shoulder.

  5. Do 10 rotations on each side.

Head tilts

  1. Sit or stand facing forward.

  2. Exhale as you slowly tilt your right ear down toward your shoulder.

  3. Use your right hand to apply gentle pressure to your head to deepen the stretch.

  4. Hold for a few breaths, feeling the stretch on the side of your neck down to your collarbone.

  5. On an inhale, return to the starting position.

  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

  7. Do 10 tilts on each side.

You can do more stretches from a seated position, like at your desk or while watching TV.

Small adjustments to relieve sternocleidomastoid pain

  1. Posture and ergonomics

Treatment may be as simple as making changes in your posture, especially if you are working or doing certain activities in a painful area. You can change the position of your chair or desk and use the headset instead of holding the phone between your ear and shoulder.

  1. Clothing and sleep comfort

Make sure you have enough space around the neck of your shirt and tie. Consider wearing a seat belt while sleeping to keep your neck in good condition. You can place a folded towel under your neck to support the curve under your skull.

  1. Massage

Consider getting a massage several times a week. This can help to alleviate muscle tension and stress, although the effects may be temporary. You can even massage your head, neck, and shoulders for 10 minutes a day. You can also use other therapies such as chiropractic acupuncture.

  1. Heat or cold packs

Hot and cold treatments are an easy way to treat pain at home. This can help relieve inflammation, relax muscles, and reduce pain. Apply an ice pack or heat pad to the affected area for 20 minutes a few times throughout the day. If you switch between the two, keep a cold treatment.