Home » Anatomy » Neck Muscles » Splenius Cervicis – Functional Anatomy

Splenius Cervicis – Functional Anatomy

This is a broad, flat muscle that wraps around the lateral neck. It anchors in the upper thoracic vertebrae and inserts on the upper cervical vertebrae. This makes it a “jack of all trades, master of none,” as it assists in extension, rotation, side-bending, and strapping things down.


  • spinous processes of T3-T6


  • anterior aspect of the transverse processes of C1-C3


  • unilaterally this is involved in rotation and side-bending of the neck. Bilaterally, these muscles extend the neck.

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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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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