Splenius capitis anatomy. This muscle is a broad, flat sheet that originates along the mid-line of the base of the neck. It wraps the lateral muscles and inserts on the lateral base of the skull.
Origin – midline fascia over the ligamentum nuchae from C3 – C7 and the spinous processes of T1-T3
Insertion – underneath the SCM on the superior nuchal line of the temporal and occipital bone
Function – Contracts during extension and ipsilateral rotation of the head on the neck.
The splenii muscles have a long attachment along the center of the spine. 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. 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.
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.
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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.
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