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Splenius Capitis – Functional Anatomy

Overview

Splenius capitis is a broad, flat sheet that originates along the mid-line of the neck’s base. It wraps the lateral muscles and inserts onto the lateral base of the skull. Its relationship with the splenius cervicis complicates the anatomy.

Origin

  • midline fascia over the ligamentum nuchae from C3 – C7
  • the spinous processes of T1-T3

Insertion

  • underneath the SCM on the superior nuchal line of the temporal bone and occipital bone

Function

  • extension of the head

Innervation

  • posterior rami of C3-4

Attachment Details

The splenii muscles have a long attachment along the center of the spine. Inferiorly, this sheet of muscle anchors from about C4 on the nuchal ligament to the spinous process of T6.

They form a broad, flat veneer of muscle the splits to become splenius capitis and splenius cervicis. This strap-like structure wraps around the lateral muscles of the neck. Along the way, the myofascial sheet divides into two sections as it extends superiorly. The splenius capitis attaches to the occipital bone and temporal bone while the splenius cervicis wraps around lateral neck musculature to attach to the spinous processes of C1-C3.

Functional Considerations

As you can see from the illustration, the bones of origin (in blue) form a broad base from which the head and neck can be turned and extended.

A portion of the origin attaches through the nuchal ligament to the lower cervical vertebrae. There is stability along the lower cervical vertebrae with flexibility against contralateral musculature. This flexible attachment allows for play between the stable origin on the thoracic vertebrae and the bony attachments along the upper cervical vertebrae and cranial base.

Wikipedia entry for Splenius Capitis

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