The Splenius Capitis Muscle

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 and contribute to pain at the top of the skull and occasionally pain in the neck.


Contents of Article

Trigger Point Symptoms

Muscle Location

Trigger Points Cause

Trigger Point Treatment

Interesting Facts

Clinical Diagnoses

Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

Splenius Capitis Pain

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

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
Splenius Capitis Pain Pattern


Relief Factor

Where is the splenius capitis muscle?

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:  Splenius Capitis Anatomy

Splenius Capitis Muscle

What Causes Trigger Points In the Splenius Capitis?


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”. Both the splenius capitis and splenius cervicis can be overworked and overly stretched if you are continually bending your head down to look at your phone or tablet.

TWD Recommends:

Biofreeze Professional Gel is recommended for the pain and symptoms of whiplash. It provides excellent pain relief and may help reduce inflammation. Recommended by medical professionals and trainers. 

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.

Sleeping on a pillow that does not provide proper neck support will cause headaches as well as neck and shoulder pain. The Sweetnight Adjustable Fill Pillow allows you to adjust the pillow filling to the proper height for better alignment of the head, neck and spine. This pillow works great for all sleeping positions!

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 for treatment on other areas including the low back and hip area. Instructions are provided.

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 important 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:

The best resource to learn how to treat small painful knots is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. The authors explain trigger points and their effects in everyday language, not medical speak. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning to treat their own muscle pain.

TWD Recommends:

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.

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:

TWD Recommends:
Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points. Rub just under the skull and down the entirety of the neck. (Not sold in stores)
  • 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

Other Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

Splenius Cervicis PainSplenius Cervicis

TWD Recommendations For Headaches and Neck Pain

Elasto-Gel Cervical Roll 

Eco Hot Cold Massage Roller

Belifu Dual Channel TENS EMS Unit

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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