Splenius Capitis and Cervicis Muscles: Location and Actions

The splenius muscles are broad and thin, getting their name from the Greek word splenium, meaning bandage. Capitis comes from the Latin word for head, caput which refers to the origin of the splenius capitis on the mastoid process and adjacent occipital bone of the skull, underneath the sternocleidomastoid. Cervicus derives from the Latin word cervix which pertains to the neck, referring to the splenius cervicus having its origin on the cervical spine. 1Arnold, M. A. “Arnold’s Glossary of Anatomy.” Discipline of Anatomy and Histology- The University of Sydney. Web. 04 July 2011. <http://www.anatomy.usyd.edu.au/glossary/>.,2Simons, David G., Janet G. Travell, Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. “Chp. 15: Splenius Capitis and Splenius Cervicis Muscles.” Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. 295-304. Print.

See Splenius Trigger Points

The splenius muscles make up one layer of four layers of posterior cervical muscles. The most superficial of these layers are the upper trapezius muscles, which form an inverted V at the back of the neck. The splenius muscles are just underneath the upper trapezius at their upper insertion and deep to the rhomboids at their lower origin. These flat and thin muscles form a regular V shape, unlike all the other layers, which form inverted V’s except for the vertically oriented semispinalis capitis, which the splenii overlies. The splenius cervicis is more vertical than the capitis and moves around the neck superolaterally.

Splenius capitus and cervicus muscles
The Splenius Muscles

Splenius Capitis and Cervicus Muscles Origin and Insertion

Origin

  • Splenius cervicis: originates at the spinous processes of the third through sixth thoracic vertebra.
  • Splenius capitis: originates from the lower half of the spinous processes of the seventh cervical vertebra and the upper three or four thoracic vertebra.

Insertion

  • Spenius cervicis: inserts on the transverse processes of the first three cervical vertebrae. The splenius capitis inserts on the mastoid process and the occipital bone.

Action of the Splenius Muscles

When both sides of the splenius muscles contract together, extension of the neck occurs. When one side contracts alone rotation and lateral flexion to the ipsilateral (same) side occurs.

See Splenius Capitis and Cervicis Trigger Points and Referred Pain 

 

Sources   [ + ]

1. Arnold, M. A. “Arnold’s Glossary of Anatomy.” Discipline of Anatomy and Histology- The University of Sydney. Web. 04 July 2011. <http://www.anatomy.usyd.edu.au/glossary/>.
2. Simons, David G., Janet G. Travell, Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. “Chp. 15: Splenius Capitis and Splenius Cervicis Muscles.” Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. 295-304. Print.