Therapist Notes – Splenius Capitis

Splenius capitis originates from the lower cervicals and upper thoracics and inserts on the occipital and temporal bones so that it is in a perfect position to counter sternocleidomastoid to pull the head around. It also serves as a wrap to hold the lateral neck muscles against the neck during movement.

The splenii muscle trigger point referral creates sensory and regulatory changes. Blurred vision, irritability, anxiety, and other fight or flight responses are relieved by the release of these referral patterns.

Trigger points are activated and perpetuated by an acute or prolonged extension of the head, especially when accompanied by rotation. This pattern can be released quickly but the client often needs to be talked through changing perpetuating activities like screen watching and sleeping position.

Mobilizing the Atlas is key.

This trigger point sits just behind the atlas and is often predicated on an atlas fixation. Direct mobilization of the atlas can, at times, release the entire pattern.

Releasing displaced joints in the upper cervicals is also important for lasting relief. Some clients can accomplish this with persistent ice and stretch self-care but a good sub-occipital and lamina groove routine effective to mobilize this area.

The first pass at this area mobilizes joints and to set up easier releases and longer-lasting results in the lower cervicals.

The trigger point that creates this referral is located just under the occipital ridge. This area may need to be revisited with massage or icing after work on the cervical lamina and splenii tendons.

Releasing the splenii tendons.

This routine targets the tendons but can be rough on the thumb and painful for clients without the pre-release of the rib heads and anterior cervicals. This protocol is not as intense and does not need to go as deep for splenius capitis ad splenius cervicis.

Clean-up the cervical lamina.

Finish with clearing up and joint fixations ad trigger points int he cervical lamina that may perpetuate the splenii trigger points. Revisit the suboccipital area to make sure that the splenius capitis trigger point has released.

If these are stubborn, starting or finishing with Ice-and-Stretch as well as atlas mobilization can create better results.

Clients should follow up with the self-care routines that help to correct Forward-Head Posture.

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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