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Suboccipital Anatomy: Rectus Capitis Posterior Major and Minor, Obliquus Capitis Superior and Inferior

(Last Updated On: August 10, 2018)

Muscle Anatomy of the Suboccipital Muscles

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 opposite side

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
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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 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 opposite side

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

Suboccipital Triangle
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Recommended Anatomy Books:

Anatomy Coloring Book

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. You will also be surprised how the act of coloring will help with recall. But this is not just a beginners book, it is also great for practitioners and therapists to have on hand to use with clients and patients to use as a visual reference.

Human Muscle Anatomy

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 and believe that MTs, PTAs, and teachers of body movements should have this book in their possession. I also highly recommend this book for the lay person who wants to gain understanding of the muscle, skeletal system and how our bodies move. This book will not disappoint!

Basic Clinical Massage Therapy

Out of the scores of books in my office Basic Clinical Massage Therapy is by far the most referenced book in my library. The musculoskeletal system is overlaid on human models allowing you to learn the precise location, origin and insertions of each muscle. The models are pictured in various poses throughout the book which also helps you visualize muscles in motion and their actions relationship with the skeletal structure and other muscles. Though it is written for massage therapists, it is an excellent book for anyone who wants to learn about the muscular system. MT's will benefit from recommended treatments for each muscle.

Muscle Anatomy Flashcards

Musculoskeletal Anatomy Flashcards Are you a student or professional therapist who needs to brush up on the musculoskeletal system? Dr. Joseph E. Muscolino DC has developed a comprehensive set of flashcards that will help develop a mind's picture of exactly where the muscles lie under the skin. A highly recommended study aid for students. Great for non students who want an easy comprehensive anatomy guide.

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