Suboccipital Muscles

The suboccipital triangle contains the vertebral artery and the suboccipital nerve. Three of the suboccipital muscles make up the boundaries of the triangle: the rectus capitis posterior major, obliquus capitis superior, and the obliquus capitis inferior.

Rectus Capitis Posterior Major

Origin: Spinous process of axis (C2)
Insertion: Lateral half of the inferior nuchal line of the occipital bone
Action: Extension of the head
Innervation: Posterior Primary Ramus of C1
Blood Supply: Branches from the vertebral artery

Primary Actions of the Rectus Capitis Posterior Major:

1. Extension of the head on the neck when acting bilaterally

  • Agonists: Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor, Obliquus Capitis Superior
  • Antagonists: Rectus Capitis Anterior

2. Ipsilateral rotation of the cervical spine when acting unilaterally

  • Agonists: Obliquus Capitis inferior
  • Antagonists: Obliquus Capitis inferior on the opposite side
Rectus Capitis Posterior Major Muscle

Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor:

Origin: Posterior tubercle of atlas (C1)
Insertion: Lateral half of the inferior nuchal line of the occipital bone.
Action: Extension of  the head
Innervation: Posterior Primary Ramus of C1
Blood Supply: Branches from the vertebral artery

Primary Actions Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor:

1. Extension of the head on the neck when acting bilaterally

  • Agonists: Rectus Capitis Posterior Major, Obliquus Capitis Superior
  • Antagonists: Rectus Capitis Anterior

2. Ipsilateral rotation of the cervical spine when acting unilaterally

  • Agonists: Obliquus Capitis inferior
  • Antagonists: Obliquus Capitis inferior on opposite side
Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor Muscle

Obliquus Capitis Superior

Origin: Superior surface of the transverse process of C1 (atlas)
Insertion: Lateral half of the inferior nuchal line of the occipital bone
Action: Extension of the head, lateral flexion of the head
Innervation: Posterior Primary Ramus of C1
Blood Supply: Branches from the vertebral artery

Primary Actions Obliquus Capitis Superior:

1. Extension of the head on the neck when acting bilaterally

  • Agonists: Rectus Capitis Posterior Major, Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor
  • Antagonists: Rectus Capitis Anterior

2. Lateral flexion of the head on the neck when acting unilaterally

  • Agonists: Rectus Capitis Lateralis
  • Antagonists: Rectus Capitis Lateralis on opposite side
Obliquus Capitis Superior Muscle

Obliquus Capitis Inferior

Origin: Lateral surface of the spinous process and adjacent laminae of C2 (axis)
Insertion: Inferoposterior aspect of the transverse process of C1 (atlas)
Action: Rotates the head to the contracted side
Innervation: Posterior Primary Ramus of C1
Blood Supply: Branches from the vertebral artery

Primary Actions of the Obliquus Capitis Inferior:

1. Ipsilateral rotation of the cervical spine when acting unilaterally

  • Agonists: Rectus Capitis Posterior Major
  • Antagonists: Rectus Capitis Posterior Major on the opposite side
Obliquus Capitis Inferior Muscle

For pain and symptom information see: Suboccipital Muscles Pain and Symptoms

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Donna Martin

Massage Therapist Owner: thewellnessdigest.com 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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