Sternocleidomastoid enlargement

Updated April 17, 2017

The Association of American Family Physicians states that family doctors commonly find sternocleidomastoid enlargement (neck masses) in adults. While variations in neck anatomy do occur, these are usually diagnosed during childhood. Variations in neck muscles caused by disease can often be identified and diagnosed by a family practitioner.

In Adults

For doctors, the patient's age is an important factor for diagnosis. Sternocleidomastoid enlargement in young adults is often caused by inflammatory or infectious disease. In older adults, sternocleidomastoid enlargement can be a symptom of both benign and malignant tumours.

In Infants

In newborns, sternocleidomastoid enlargement is associated with torticollis, or "twisted neck." In newborns, a mass or enlargement of the sternocleidomastoid muscle may at first grow rapidly. However, these masses often stabilise and regress over time. In many cases, no sternocleidomastoid enlargement is detectable after age two. Enlargements may be due to birthing trauma or fetal position.

Lymph Nodes

Sternocleidomastoid muscles are attached to the jugular lymph nodes. These lymph nodes are located both above and below the SCMs, on both sides of the neck. Lymphatic draining in this area can cause sternocleidomastoid enlargement and a tender neck. Enlarged jugular lymph nodes are commonly caused by pharyngitis and rubella.

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About the Author

Melissa Bajorek began writing professionally in 2001. Her work has appeared online, in daily newspapers and on websites owned by Gatehouse Media, in monthly periodicals and for local and regional radio. She writes about a variety of topics, from new technology to animal husbandry. Bajorek has an Associate of Arts in business management from the University of Phoenix and holds certifications in marketing and advertising.