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Splenius capitis



General information

  • This section is strictly limited to anatomy, you might be looking for clinical relevant information which is found under the clinical chapters -- muscles section, click here to go to that page


  • Deep


  • Ligamentum nuchea C3-C6
  • Processus spinosi C7-Th4


  • Processus mastoideus
  • Linea nuchae superior
  • Lateral 1/3

Main function

  • Neck
    • Extension
    • Lateral flexion
    • Ipsilateral rotation

Nerve innervation

  • Segmental
    • C2-C6
  • Peripheral
    • Dorsal rami of the middle cervical spinal nerve

Arterial supply

  • Occipital artery


  • Patient position
    • Sitting
  • Most of the splenius capitis is deep to both the trapezius and sternocleidomastoideus
  • Palpate and locate the posterior aspect of sternocleidomastoideus and anterior aspect of upper trapezius
  • Palpate superiorly in the triangle between these two muscles
  • The patient is asked to rotate the head ipsilaterally while the therapist feels for contraction of the muscle
  • The muscle can be palpated further superiorly where it is positioned deep in comparison with sternocleidomastoideus, and caudally where it is deep to upper parts of trapezius

Strength test

  • This test is not an isolated test for splenius captis, but also involves the splenius cervicis, semispinalis capitis and cervicis and the cervical aspect of erector spinae
  • Patient position
    • Prone
  • Place the patient's neck in a posterolateral extension position, the rotated towards the side which is to be tested
  • The therapist gives resistance in an anterior direction towards the posterolateral aspect of the head