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Semispinalis Capitis Muscle: Neck and Head Pain

The semispinalis capitis is a muscle found deep in the neck. Trigger points in the muscle cause 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.

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    Where is the semispinalis capitis muscle?

    Semispinalis Capitis Muscle Trigger Point Locations

    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 it 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)


    For detailed muscle anatomy, visit Semispinalis Capitis Anatomy

    Semispinalis Capitis Muscle Trigger Points Symptoms:

    Semispinalis Capitis Referred Pain Pattern
    • 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 into the eye
    • Headaches
    • Tenderness and hypersensitivity in the back of the head and neck
    • Numbness in the scalp

    TWD Recommends

    The Huggaroo Neck Wrap is a large wrap that will treat neck, upper shoulder, and upper back muscle pain. It can be used cold for injury and swelling or warmed for deep penetrating heat. It works well to treat the neck and upper back muscles and reduce muscle pain and symptoms.

    Activities that cause semispinalis capitis muscle pain:

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

    Semispinalis Capitis Trigger Point Treatment

    The semispinalis capitis muscle can be self-treated. TWD highly recommends The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. It is an excellent resource to learn how to find and treat trigger points not only in the neck but throughout the body.

    If you are uncomfortable self-treating the neck muscles, find a massage therapist, chiropractor, or physical therapist trained in trigger point therapy. They will show you how to find and treat specific TrPs associated with your pain.

    Trigger points respond best to several 1-2 minute treatments spread throughout the day.


    Neck Strain Injuries

    If you have a neck muscle strain injury, it is recommended that you use cold therapy 24-72 hours after the injury occurs. Once the swelling and inflammation have reduced, you should alternate cold and warm treatments.

    TWD Recommends

    The Craniocradle was developed to treat headaches and stiff necks. The cradle applies pressure to the muscles while providing gentle traction to the neck. Use for 5-10 minutes and feel a reduction in pain and stress. The cradle can also be used to treat other areas, including the low back and hip area. Instructions are provided.

    Sombra Warm Therapy warms and relaxes muscles without the burning heat of other heating creams/gels. Apply Sombra to the neck and upper back before using the CranioCradle to relax the muscles, which will improve the effectiveness of the cradle.

    TWD Recommends: Neck Muscle Injuries

    Note: If you have suffered a whiplash injury or strained a neck muscle, it is recommended that you use cold therapy during the acute phase of the injury. Cold therapy is also recommended for migraine headaches.

    For muscle injuries and migraines, use Biofreeze Cooling Gel. Biofreeze works like ice in that it cools the area and may help reduce inflammation. Rub the gel into the neck, shoulders, and upper back for pain relief. It is used and recommended by therapists and doctors for musculoskeletal injuries and pain.

    The Elasto-Gel Cervical Roll is a hot/cold pack recommended for whiplash injuries and neck pain. Chill the roll and place it under the neck for 20 minutes. Apply Biofreeze after using the chilled roll to prolong the treatment.

    Interesting facts about the semispinalis capitis muscle

    • A trigger point in the muscle can produce pressure on the occipital nerve. This will cause tingling and numbness in the back of the scalp. You may find it uncomfortable to put your head on a pillow.
    • The semispinalis capitis, together with the semispinalis cervicis, is the strongest muscle in the neck.
    • It is part of the transversospinalis muscle group

    Clinical diagnoses to which the semispinalis capitis muscle 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


    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

    Satellite trigger points associated with the muscle:

    If you find trigger points in the semispinalis capitis you will want to check these muscles for additional trigger points.

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


    TWD Recommends

    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 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, and many of my clients relieve headaches, sore, stiff necks, and upper back strain.

    Muscles That Contributes To These Conditions:

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    Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

    Suboccipital Muscle
    Semispinalis Capitis