The Splenius Cervicis Muscle

The splenius cervicis is a muscle of the neck. The muscle can contribute to headaches, numbness in the back of the head, pressure in the back of the head, and pain behind the eye. It is also a primary source of pain at the slope of the neck where it joins to the shoulder.


Contents of Article

Trigger Point Symptoms

Muscle Location

Trigger Points Cause

Trigger Point Treatment

Interesting Facts

Clinical Diagnoses

Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

Splenius Cervicis Pain

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

Trigger points in the splenius cervicis cause pain throughout the head and neck. Headaches begin at the base of the skull going through the head to the back of the eye. The pain feels deep in the head and often has a pulsating feel. You may also experience blurry vision. Another symptom is numbness in the back of the head which is often accompanied by deep pressure in the head.

A common symptom is an aching pain and tightness at the slope where the neck and shoulder connect.

The symptoms:

  • Pain where the shoulder and neck join
  • Aching throbbing pain that starts at the back of the head and goes through to the back of the eye
  • Numbness or pressure in the back of the head
  • Migraine headaches
  • Blurred vision with a headache
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Where is the splenius cervicis muscle?

It connects the neck vertebrae (C1-3) to the upper back (T3-6).

What movements does it control?

  • Straightens (extends) the neck
  • Turns (rotates) the neck
  • Bends (lateral flexion) the neck towards the shoulder

Anatomy Nerds: For more muscle anatomy including actions, agonists and antagonists visit Splenius Cervicis Anatomy

What Causes Trigger Points In the Splenius Cervicis?

In today’s technological age a common cause of trigger points in the splenius muscles is the constant looking down at our phones, also known as text neck.  Another major contributor is propping your head up on the arm of the couch while lying down.  Propping your head up on too many pillows while you sleep will also cause pain and stiffness.

If you have ever had a whiplash injury there is a good chance that the muscle was affected and developed Trps. Forward head posture where your chin juts forward is also a major cause of trigger points in the splenius cervicis.

The causes of trigger points: 

  • Whiplash injuries
  • Sleeping with your head propped up high on pillows or the arm of the couch
  • A prime contributor to “text neck”
  • Forward head posture – forward head posture is when the head juts forward in relation to the neck
Splenius Cervicis Muscle 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 Cervicis Trigger Point Treatment

The splenius cervicis 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 get the workbook you will need a Thera Cane Massager to reach the trigger point that is located in the back of the neck.  The cane is useful and is used to treat many muscles throughout the body that cannot be reached like muscles in the back, the glutes and even the bottom of the feet.

Interesting facts about the splenius cervicis muscle

  • The splenius muscles are major contributors to migraine headaches.
  • These muscles should be examined and treated in all whiplash injuries.

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.

The Thera Cane is the other tool recommended by the TrP Workbook. This tool is easy for most people to use. You do not have to contort your body or have a lot of hand strength. You can easily reach most areas of the body including muscles in the back of the neck and the upper back.

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

  • Whiplash
  • Migraine headaches
  • Military neck
  • Text neck
  • Spasmatic torticollis (Wryneck)
  • Occipitoatlantal dysfunction
  • C2 C3 radiculopathy
  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Prolapsed disc
  • Eye Strain
  • Stenosis
  • Cervical Spine Hyperlordosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Migraine Headache
  • Tension Headache
  • Eye Strain
  • Vertebral vascular disorder
  • Cerebrovascular disorder
TWD Recommends:

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

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)

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

Satellite trigger points associated with the muscle:

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

  • Levator scapulae
  • Sternocleidomastoid
  • Splenius capitis
  • Upper trapezius

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.

Other Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

Masseter Muscle

Temporalis Muscle

Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

TWD Recommendations For Headaches and Neck Pain

The Huggaroo Neck Wrap 

Elasto-Gel Hot/Cold Cervical Roll 

HailiCare Posture Corrector. 

Hempactiv Pain Relief Cream

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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