The Scalenes, a muscle composed of 3 strips found the lateral sides of the neck (in purple), are to me one of the most important muscles of the upper body. This may seem strange, but the reasons are truly fascinating.

As well as being responsible for movements of the neck and therefore many neck issues, they are very often the cause of what is commonly diagnosed as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This is due to their proximity to the Brachial Plexus, the nerve that runs all the way down your arm to the base of your hand.

Scalenes in Purple


Scalenes are also considered to be a ‘breathing muscle’. You may try and see how this works by putting your fingers on the side of your neck and taking a couple of short forced inhalations: you will feel these muscle strips activate under your fingers.

Why? Because they run from your neck to the first 2 ribs, so that kind of makes sense, right?

I recently read an article explaining that the Scalenes are embryologically the uppermost of the intercostal muscles! However, we have no ribs on the neck! Can you just for a second imagine you were a fish and had no neck: the vertebrae located below your skull would effectively develop into fully shaped ribs to hug your front body, how crazy is that?

Essentially if our cervical vertebrae were developed into ribs, our Scalene muscles would have been our uppermost Intercostal muscles….. Just WOW!

How do we ensure our Scalenes are supple, spacious and move freely?

First by breathing deeply and spaciously, calm and controlled breaths, consciously welcoming the air in and letting the air out.

Secondly, by keeping our neck mobile with gentle daily stretching and movements. And if ever you think you may be affected by CTS because your wrist is in deep pain, before going to the doctor for a diagnosis I very much recommend you go to a well-trained massage therapist for a few sessions and miracles may well happen.

Anatomy – The Scalenes

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