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Semispinalis Capitis Muscle: Neck and Head Pain

(Last Updated On: August 10, 2018)

A band of pain encircling the top of the head, pain in the temple area going into the eye and pain in the back of the head are symptoms of semispinalis capitis muscle dysfunction.

What pain and symptoms are associated with the semispinalis capitis?

  • Pain in the upper neck extending up into the back of the head
  • Band of pain going around the top head
  • Pain in the temple region going down to the eye
  • Headaches
  • Tenderness and hypersensitivity in the back of the head and neck
  • Numbness in the scalp

Where is the semispinalis capitis muscle?

The semispinalis capitis is a muscle found deep in the neck. It connects the lower neck (cervical) vertebrae (C4, C5, C6, C7)  and the upper back (thoracic) vertebrae (T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, T6) to the bottom of the skull (occipital bone).

What movements does the semispinalis capitis muscle control?

  • Straightens (extends) the neck and head
  • Turns (rotates) the head side to side
  • Bends (lateral flexion) the neck to the side (ear to shoulder motion)

Activities that cause semispinalis capitis pain and symptoms:

  • Blow to the back of the head
  • Whiplash
  • Cervical collar
  • Holding shoulders up
  • Stress


Semispinalis Capitis Origin, Insertion, Action, Innervation

The semispinalis muscle straightens your neck and head, bends the neck side to side, (ear to shoulder) and helps turn the head.

Clinical diagnoses to which the semispinalis capitis symptoms may contribute:

  • Tension headaches
  • Cluster headaches
  • Whiplash
  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Prolapsed disc
  • Intervertebral or Vertebral stenosis
  • Cervical Spine Hyperlordosis
  • Thoracic Spine Hyperkyphosis
  • Military neck
  • Vertebral vascular disorder
  • Scoliosis
  • Spasmodic Torticollis
  • Wryneck Syndrome
  • Eye Strain
  • Sinus Pain

Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the semispinalis capitis muscle:

Satellite trigger points associated with the semispinalis capitis muscle:

  • Semispinalis Capitis on opposite side
  • Semispinalis Cervicis both sides of neck
  • Splenius Capitis both sides of neck
  • Splenius Cervicis both sides of neck

Help with Semispinalis Capitis Muscle Pain

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain relieving gel and I recommend it for those who have sudden onset muscle pain or recent injuries.  It is better than warm therapy gels and creams for recent injury muscle pain as it cools the area much like ice and does not promote swelling. A recent study showed that Biofreeze decreased pain 2 times more than ice and the pain relief lasts 9 – 10 longer. If your pain is from a recent injury from straining the semispinalis capitis, I recommend using Biofreeze.

Hot Cold Cervical Roll For Headaches and Neck Pain

Elasto-Gel Cervical Roll can be heated, chilled or used simply for support and pressure for the neck. The roll can help with semispinalis capitis muscle pain and headaches. For best results, position the roll at the base of the skull.

Warm Therapy Gels Help Relieve Neck and Headache Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that I use both personally and professionally in my massage therapy practice. Unlike other over the counter heating creams, it provides warmth without burning heat.  Apply Sombra to the muscles of the neck and upper back to relieve semispinalis muscle pain.

Recommended Cold and Heat Wrap for Neck and Upper Back

Elasto-Gel Cervical Collar can be used for heat or cold therapy to the neck and upper back area. This is a great wrap to use with the semispinalis capitis as it covers the muscle. Use cold therapy for new and recent injury or sudden onset pain. Use heat therapy for injuries over a week old and chronic pain from old injuries and tight muscles. I recommend this because it conforms to the contours of your body and is well made to last for years.

Massage Therapy Tools Provide Pressure To Help Relax Neck and Head Muscles

I use and often recommend the Neck King Massage Tool For Neck and Back to my clients who suffer from headaches, migraines and stiff necks. The Neck King works on trigger points and pressure points to help relieve muscle tension and pain. The secret to using the Neck King is to follow the directions carefully and to slowly build up the time spent using the tool. For many first time users, the tool is too hard to use comfortably. Folding a hand towel and laying it over the Neck King will help ease the discomfort. This tool has helped me as well as many of my clients relieve headaches, sore stiff necks and upper back strain.

Self Treatment For The Semispinalis Capitis Head and Neck Pain

Do you know that small “knots” and other dysfunction in the semispinalis capitis muscle can cause pain in the head, neck and numbness in the scalp?

When I recommend trigger point tools like the Neck King (see above) to my clients I always recommend that they also purchase Claire Davies  The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief.  Mr. Davies explain the trigger point phenomenon and muscle pain in everyday language.  But what makes this book worth its weight in gold are the individual muscle trigger point treatments that Davies has compiled. His diagrams and step by step instructions help you locate which muscles are contributing to your pain,  how to find the trigger point and treat it. It takes time and practice to master finding trigger points, but once you learn you have a tool and method to help relieve muscle pain throughout the body. If you suffer from unresolved headaches, migraines or have had a whiplash injury, I highly recommend this book. Relieving trigger points in various head and neck muscles have helped many people resolve head and neck pain issues. This book is a must have for anyone interested in finding the cause and treating muscle pain.

Easily Treat Hard  To Reach Areas Of The Body

The Theracane Massager is a self-treatment massage tool for use on those hard to reach areas on the neck, shoulders, back, hips and legs. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook has diagrams showing how to use the Theracane to treat hard to reach areas.


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