The splenius capitis muscle is found in the back of the neck and connects the neck vertebrae to the back of the skull. Trigger points (TrPs) in the muscle can cause pain at the top of the head and occasionally pain in the neck.

Contents of Article


    Where is the splenius capitis muscle?

    Splenius Capitis Anatomy Showing Trigger Point Location

    The splenius capitis muscle connects the neck vertebrae and upper back vertebrae (C7-T4) to the skull behind the ear. (mastoid process).

    What Movements Does It Control?

    • Bends the head toward the shoulder
    • Turns the head
    • Straightens the head and neck

    For Detailed Anatomy Information See: Splenius Capitis Anatomy

    What pain and symptoms are associated with the splenius capitis muscles?

    Splenius Capitis Referred Pain Pattern
    Splenius capitis trigger points' primary symptom is pain in the top of the head. You may also experience general-type headaches, migraines, and blurry vision. If you have ever experienced a whiplash injury, you may also have an aching pain in the neck.
    The symptoms:
    • Pain at the crown of the head
    • Headaches
    • Blurred vision
    • Occasionally neck pain

    TWD Recommends

    Tightness and pain in the muscles in the back of the neck respond well to hot and cold treatments. The Huggaroo Neck Wrap treats the neck, top of the shoulder, and upper back. Use cold for migraines and whiplash injuries. Use heat for tension headaches and relaxation.

    What causes trigger points in the splenius capitis muscles?

    The splenius capitis muscle is one of the primary muscles injured in whiplash. As a result, if you have ever had a whiplash injury, the probability of having TrPs in the muscle is high.
    Text Neck
    With the increase of smartphones, there has also been a marked increase in “text neck.” The splenius capitis and splenius cervicis can be overworked and overly stretched if you continually bend your head down to look at your phone or tablet.
    Sleeping Habits
    Some have the habit of laying on the couch and using the couch arm as a pillow. Another is sleeping with your head propped up high on pillows. Both of these positions put the splenius muscles in an overstretched and often twisted position, which will set up trigger points in the muscle.
    Forward Head Posture
    Forward head posture is when your head extends forward from the neck, and your chin juts out. This puts all the neck muscles, including the splenius muscles, in a prolonged stretch which will cause trigger points and pain to develop.

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    Do You Have Headaches That Radiate From Deep In The Head? A Stiff Neck But No Neck Pain?

    These symptoms point to the splenius capitis muscles. 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 for treatment in other areas, including the low back and hip area. Instructions are provided.

    If you have rounded shoulder, forward head posture, or a habit of slouching, correcting your posture will reduce muscle pain. The Truweo Posture Corrector is adjustable and comfortable. It gently pulls your shoulders back, which helps retrain muscle memory to maintain proper posture. Many people notice an immediate reduction of pain and tension. Start slowly, wearing the brace for short periods throughout the day gradually increasing the time-worn.

    Splenius Capitis Trigger Point Treatment

    The splenius capitis muscle can be self-treated. If you would like to learn how to self-treat trigger points, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is an excellent resource. You will learn how to locate and treat TrPs throughout the body.

    If you are not comfortable self-treating, you can find a massage therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor trained in trigger point therapy. They will give you advice and show you how to self-treat at home.

    Trigger points respond best to several short treatments spread throughout the day. It is essential to continue treatment until the TrP can no longer be felt and the area around the trigger point no longer produces pain when pressure is applied.

    TWD Recommends

    Does your pillow support your head and neck?

    Sleeping without proper head and neck support is sure to aggravate neck and shoulder muscles. The Sweetnight Pillow has adjustable filling and is highly recommended for its neck support.

    Interesting facts about the splenius capitis muscle

    • The splenius muscles should also be examined and treated in all whiplash injuries.
    • The splenius muscles are major contributors to migraine headaches.
    • The splenius capitis muscles are a major contributor to tension headaches.

    Clinical diagnoses to which the splenius capitis muscle symptoms may contribute:

    • C1 radiculopathy
    • Herniated disc
    • Bulging disc
    • Prolapsed disc
    • Whiplash
    • Migraine headaches
    • Occipitoatlantal dysfunction
    • Military neck
    • Eye Strain
    • Cervical Spine Hyperlordosis
    • Post Concussion Syndrome
    • Vertebral vascular disorder


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

    Satellite trigger points associated with the muscle:

    If you find trigger points in the splenius capitis you will want to check these muscles for additional trigger points.
    • Levator scapulae
    • Sternocleidomastoid
    • Splenius cervicis
    • Upper trapezius

    I 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. It works extremely well on the muscles at the base of the skull. This tool has helped me, and many of my clients relieve headaches, sore, stiff necks, and upper back strain.

    Find additional muscles that may contribute to these symptoms:


    Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

    Occipitalis Muscle
    Suboccipital Muscle
    Sternocleidomastoid Muscle