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Semispinalis Cervicis Muscle: Head and Neck Pain

(Last Updated On: August 10, 2018)

Pain, tingling and a burning sensation in the upper neck that extends up into the back of the head can be caused by the semispinalis cervicis muscle.

What are the pain and symptoms associated with semispinalis cervicis muscle pain?

  • Pain in the back of the upper neck extending up into the back of the head
  • Headaches
  • Tenderness in the back of the head and/or neck
  • Tingling and burning in the scalp

Where is the semispinalis cervicis muscle?

The semispinalis cervicis is a muscle found in the upper back and neck. It connects the upper back vertebrae (T-3 to T-6) to the upper neck (C1, C2, C3, C4) vertebrae.

What movements does the semispinalis cervicis muscle control?

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

Activities that cause semispinalis cervicis pain and symptoms:

  • Blow to the back of the head
  • Whiplash
  • Wearing a cervical collar
  • Holding shoulders up
  • Stress


Semispinalis Cervicis Origin, Insertion, Action, Innervation

You use the semispinalis cervicis muscle when you turn your head, bend your ear toward your shoulder and straighten your neck and back.

Interesting facts about the semispinalis cervicis muscle:

  • The semispinalis cervicis together with the semispinalis capitis are the strongest muscle in the neck.
  • When the head is carried forward or with a tilt the semispinalis cervicis upholds the majority of the weight of the head. This muscle should always be examined when there is a complaint of head pain or headache.

Clinical diagnoses to which the semispinalis cervicis muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • Tension headaches
  • Cluster headache
  • Military neck
  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Prolapsed disc
  • Cervical spine hyperlordosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Intervertebral or Vertebral stenosis
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Rib Subluxation
  • Slipping Rib
  • Whiplash
  • Vertebral vascular disorder

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

Satellite trigger points associated with the semispinalis cervicis muscle:

  • Trapezius
  • Levator Scalpulae

For detailed anatomy information:  
Semispinalis Cervicis Anatomy

Help with Semispinalis Cervicis 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 to use than warm therapy gels and creams for muscle pain caused by inflammation as it cools the area much like ice. A recent study showed that Biofreeze decreased pain 2 times more than ice and the pain relief lasts 9 – 10 longer. Biofreeze  is recommended for those who have had a recent neck injury or sudden onset pain. Rub Biofreeze into the upper back and shoulders, into the neck going up to the base of the skull. Highly recommended for early treatment of whiplash.

Hot Cold Wrap for Neck and Shoulders

Elasto-Gel Cervical Collar can be used for heat or cold therapy to the neck, upper shoulder area. 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 injury and tight muscles. I recommend this because it conforms to the contours of your body and is well made so it will last for years.

Warm Therapy Gel For Neck Pain and Headaches

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.  Applying Sombra to the muscles along the base of the skull and down the neck can help relieve semispinalis cervicis pain . I recommend Sombra for chronic pain and pain from arthritis.

Hot Cold Pack For Neck and Back Pain

CorPak Soft Comfort Hot & Cold Pack Wrap is a versatile pack that can be used to treat many areas of the body. This pack works well for the back as it is large and can cover a large area. The pack is filled with pliable gel and has a soft frost free cover that will not irritate your skin. For recent injuries, use it cold to reduce swelling. For older injures or chronic pain use heat to relax the muscles and increase circulation.

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.

Trigger Point Self-Treatment For Head and Neck Pain

Do you know that small 'knots', as well as other dysfunction in the semispinalis cervicis muscle can cause pain in the back of the head and neck? It can also cause a burning and tingling sensation in the scalp.

If you are interested in treating back pain caused by trigger points I recommend you purchase Claire Davies  The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain ReliefMr. Davies explains 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. If you suffer from unresolved head and neck pain I highly recommend this book. 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. Relieving trigger points have helped many people resolve their neck and head 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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