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What Is the Stylohyoid?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2014
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The stylohyoid is a muscle located in the head and neck region of the body. The primary function of the stylohyoid muscle is to assist in the actions of chewing and swallowing. The muscle begins at the styloid process, which is a type of sharp protrusion used as a point of attachment for various muscles of the body. This process is attached to the temporal bone of the skull. The stylohyoid muscle then inserts into the hyoid bone, located between the chin and neck.

The muscle known as the stylohyoid is located in front of and above the digastric muscle, also referred to as the digastricus. The digasrtic muscle is a relatively small muscle that is found below the jaw. During contraction of the digastric muscle, elevation of the hyoid bone occurs. This action helps to open the mouth by working to depress the jawbone, also referred to as the mandible. The facial nerve provides the nerve supply for both the digastric and stylohyoid muscles.

There are various medical conditions that can potentially cause damage to the stylohyoid muscle, especially when surrounding tissues are involved. For instance, having the tonsils removed can sometimes cause damage to the nerves surrounding this muscle, causing scar tissue to develop. This type of damage can cause a specific type of chronic nerve pain known as neuralgia.

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Eagle Syndrome is another condition that can affect this area of the body. This condition is caused by defects in either the styloid process or the styloid ligament, both of which are attached to the stylohyoid muscle. Chronic facial pain is the trademark symptom of this condition. Headaches, particularly migraines, are also common. Other symptoms can include dental abnormalities as well as certain types of arthritis in the face and neck regions of the body.

The stylohyoid muscle is among the various muscles of the body that has been linked to a chronic pain condition known as myofascial pain syndrome. This condition causes moderate to severe pain which can become so troublesome that the patient is unable to function at a normal level. In some cases, medication is enough to control the devastating pain caused by myofascial pain syndrome. In other situations, physical therapy may help the patient cope with the symptoms of this condition. Trigger point injections are sometimes used in more severe cases. Treatment is aimed at alleviating the symptoms, as there is no known cure for this type of muscle pain.

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tolleranza
Post 5

@runner101 - That's a great question. In swallowing disorders there is what is called, "silent aspiration." 'Aspiration' is the term used for, in this case, food going into your lungs. And here's the scary part - as I'm sure you have gathered from the term 'silent' you can't hear it when the food goes into the lungs.

Unlike typical eaters, who cough and seem like they are choking; people with swallowing disorders will have food drop into their lungs and not a bit of reaction.

So you are not wrong in thinking that you don't see your grandmother having difficulty choking; by definition you can't see it.

runner101
Post 4

@tolleranza - Thanks for the good news. But I have another question. How can someone look like they are swallowing fine, but in reality not be?

tolleranza
Post 3

@runner 101 - So that's the good news, there is often treatment for swallowing disorders. The bad news is that although someone may look like they are swallowing fine, they very well may not be.

aLFredo
Post 2

@runner101 - You are not alone! Many people, when they find out their family member or friend who has been eating just fine, now has a swallowing difficulty, find it hard to believe such news.

First, and foremost, talk to the doctor, nurse, or speech-language pathologist who is working with your family member (speech language pathologists actually do the swallow study secondary to their specialized knowledge of the neck area). This is important because there are many factors in swallowing difficulty.

While your grandmother may be experiencing some difficulty with her stylohyoid, it is important to find out if the swallowing difficulty is directly related to the muscle or if it is related to something else such as the cranial nerve which innervates the stylohyoid muscle. Depending on the cause, if they can find the cause, treatment will vary.

runner101
Post 1

We just took my grandmother to the hospital and they found she could not swallow, but she looks fine when she swallows to me!

They mentioned something about the stylohyoid muscle when they were trying to explain her difficulty to us, but I was having trouble following, because as I mentioned - she just doesn't seem to have trouble swallowing!

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