ZocdocAnswersI've been having a dull pain on my left sternocleidomastoid, what should I do?

Question

I've been having a dull pain on my left sternocleidomastoid, what should I do?

I've been having this constant dull pain on my lower left sternocleidomastoid. It feels like it's coming from the point where the sternocleidomastoid meets with my chest bone. There are times where I turn my neck, or bend down to pick up something, or even when I take a deep breath that the pain turns into a sharp sting. But again, this is sometimes and not all the times. I do want to add that I've been working out hard for the past two months and only began experiencing this about two weeks ago. Yesterday I was stretching out my neck and my wife noticed a small ball in that exact area... only on my left side where it has been hurting. It's not a hard or soft ball but it feels more like a bubble. Her description was, "it feels like if its a bubble of liquid or something."

Answer

Thanks for your question. I recommend that you speak with your doctor soon. While there are several different possibilities, one of the things that could explain your symptoms can best be explained by understanding the area of concern. The sternocleidomastoid attaches to the mastoid (behind the ear) and then has two heads: one at the clavicle and the other at the sternum. Between the two heads there is a small gap where you can feel soft tissue between and under the muscle. It is also important to understand that the area where the clavicle and the sternum meet is a joint. Like any joint, this can become inflamed and have swelling if the joint is misused. As you have recently changed your exercise regime, it is possible that you have a synovitis or inflammation of the joint fluid for some reason. Your doctor would be able to help you understand this more fully, and may use either an ultrasound or a CT to confirm. There are other possibilities as well, such as soft tissue swelling that can come from benign or otherwise swollen lymph nodes. Your doctor will ask you questions about your overall health to determine if there is more that needs to be done. Please speak with your doctor soon.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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