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Dorsal scapular nerve

Recommended video: Brachial plexus [21:00]
Structure of the brachial plexus, including the roots, trunks, cords and branches.

The dorsal scapular nerve is one of the lateral branches of the brachial plexus, arising from its root, specifically from the root of spinal nerve C5. Occasionally, it may arise from the superior trunk of the brachial plexus.

The dorsal scapular nerve is a motor nerve that provides innervation to the rhomboid major, rhomboid minor and levator scapulae muscles. Collectively, these muscles function to elevate and retract the scapula.

This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the dorsal scapular nerve.

Key facts about the dorsal scapular nerve
Origin Anterior ramus of spinal nerve C5
Branches None
Supply Rhomboid major, rhomboid minor and levator scapulae muscle
  1. Origin and course
  2. Function
  3. Clinical relations
    1. Dorsal scapular nerve syndrome
  4. Sources
+ Show all

Origin and course

The dorsal scapular nerve arises just above the clavicle, from the proximal part of the anterior ramus of C5 spinal nerve. It pierces the scalenus medius muscle and descends between the levator scapulae on one side and serratus posterior superior and scalenus posterior muscles on the other side. It then runs across the medial scapular region, along the anterior border of the rhomboid muscles.

The dorsal scapular nerve is usually accompanied by either the dorsal scapular artery, or the deep branch of the transverse cervical artery.

To learn everything about the nervous system in a fun and engaging way, try out nervous system quizzes and diagrams!


The dorsal scapular nerve provides motor innervation to the rhomboid major and rhomboid minor muscles. In addition, it supplies the levator scapulae muscle along with the branches arising from spinal nerves C3 and C4. The rhomboids serve to pull the scapula posteriorly medially towards the vertebral column, while the levator scapulae elevates the scapula.

The dorsal scapular nerve is only one of the many neurovascular structures of the arm and shoulder. Take the quiz below to find out if you have any weak spots and what you should study next!

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