Muscle Anatomy of the Splenius Capitis Muscle

Origin: Lower half of the nuchal ligament, the spinous processes and supraspinous ligaments of C7 to T3

Insertion:  Lateral occipital bone, between the superior and inferior nuchal lines

Actions: Extends the head and cervical spine, lateral flexion of the head and cervical spine

Innervation: Dorsal Rami of (C3, C4)

Blood Supply: Posterior rami of the intercostal and deep cervical branch of costocervical trunk arteries

Splenius Capitis Muscle

For pain and symptom information see:

Splenius Capitis: Pain at the Top of the Head

Splenius Capitis Muscle Actions

Primary Actions of the Splenius Capitis

1. Extension of the head and cervical spine when acting bilaterally


  •  Longissimus capitis
  • Spinalis capitis
  • Semispinalis capitis
  • Sternocleidomastoid (posterior fibers)


  • Longus Capitis
  • Sternocleidomastoid (anterior fibers)
2. Lateral Flexion of the head and cervical spine when acting unilaterally


  • Sternocleidomastoid


  • Sternocleidomastoid on the contralateral side

Secondary Actions of the Splenius Capitis:

1. Assists with ipsilateral rotation of the head and cervical spine when acting unilaterally


  • None


  • None

Note: Splenius capitis is the only ipsilateral rotator of both the head and cervical spine and does not function in isolation, but in conjunction with other rotatores.


Recommended Beginner Anatomy Books

The Anatomy Coloring Book is one of the best study and reference books for beginning anatomy students. The diagrams are clearly labeled and allow you to see the relationship and placement of the various structures of the body.

The Trail Guide To The Body is another excellent book to help you learn the musculature of the human body. Though the book is geared toward massage therapists and physical therapist assistants, the book with its illustrations and text helps anyone gain a thorough understanding of the human musculoskeletal system and movement. I highly recommend this book for anyone studying anatomy.


Donna Martin

Massage Therapist Owner: Twelve years of experience working with clients with chronic pain, post injury pain, and post surgery pain. Muscle dysfunction is often overlooked but can hold the key to many pain conditions.

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