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Semispinalis Capitis – Massage Therapy Notes

The semispinalis capitis, originates from the vertebrae of the upper back and lower neck and attaches to the back of the head, trapping the upper cervical vertebrae in between.

This trigger point creates a headache above the temple.

Even though the sensation is in the head, this trigger point is located between the nuchal lines. It is usually released in the mobilization of the atlas or, when stubborn, in the cervical lamina groove protocol. Cranial work along the occipitomastoid suture helps to stabilize the upper cervical work.

This muscle also entraps the greater occipital nerve which creates a tingling in the back of the head. More detailed anatomy about the structure is in this post.

This type of head pain usually requires a more detailed treatment of the lamina groove to release muscle tension in the lower cervical musculature.


Start by Understanding the Anatomy.
About the coloring of the illustrations…

This muscle is part of intrinsic back muscles that stabilize the vertebrae and cranium. Read more about it in this post n semispinalis capitis.

This trigger point is strongly governed by the position of the atlas. If you are trained in atlas mobilizations, here is a post for you to review.

This protocol mobilizes the atlas and releases muscular restrictions in the suboccipital area. This is an essential step in resolving this trigger point.

Spends a little extra time on the superior nuchal line. This trigger point lives between the nuchal lines.

This protocol will clean up any other trigger point activity in the splenius capitis muscle. Extend the strokes along the lamina groove into the upper thoracic area to catch the inferior portion of the muscle belly.

This protocol can be more meaningful when releasing the lower trigger point that produces the tingling in the back of the head. That tingling comes from greater occipital nerve entrapment.

This post has great follow-up information for your client, should the pattern reoccur or need home care to stabilize the cervical spine.

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This patient had recovered from a frozen shoulder but developed shoulder pain at the end of his golf swing. More traditional neuromuscular techniques weren’t working. The chiropractic wasn’t working. Integrative Craniosacral was the right solution for lasting relief.

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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