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Rectus capitis anterior muscle

Recommended video: Muscles of the anterior neck [20:57]
Overview of the muscles that define the anterior neck.
Rectus capitis anterior muscle (Musculus rectus capitis anterior)

Rectus capitis anterior muscle is one of the deep neck muscles whose function is to flex the head on the neck at the atlantooccipital joint. 

This short strap muscle belongs to the group of anterior vertebral muscles together with the longus colli, longus capitis and rectus capitis lateralis muscles. The anterior and lateral neck muscles together comprise the prevertebral muscles of the neck, all lying deep to prevertebral layer of deep cervical fascia.

Key facts about the rectus capitis anterior muscle
Origin Anterior surface of lateral mass and transverse process of atlas
Insertion Inferior surface of basilar part of occipital bone
Action Atlantooccipital joint: Head flexion
Innervation Anterior rami of spinal nerves C1, C2
Blood supply Vertebral artery, ascending pharyngeal artery

This article will describe the anatomy and function of the rectus capitis anterior muscle.

  1. Origin and insertion
  2. Relations
  3. Innervation
  4. Blood supply
  5. Function
  6. Sources
+ Show all

Origin and insertion

Rectus capitis anterior muscle originates from the anterior surface of lateral mass of atlas (first cervical vertebra) and the root of its transverse process. It then extends superomedially and inserts to the inferior surface of basilar part of occipital bone.

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The muscle lies deep to the superior part of the longus capitis muscle. It belongs to anterior vertebral muscles, which together with lateral vertebral group comprise the prevertebral muscles. Being a part of the prevertebral neck muscles, the rectus capitis anterior lies immediately posterior to the retropharyngeal space. Lateral to the muscle are the subclavian artery, cervical and brachial plexuses.


This muscle is innervated by the anterior rami of spinal nerves C1 and C2. The anterior rami of these nerves are connected by a communicating branch, from which the nerves to rectus capitis anterior muscle stem.

Blood supply

The muscle is supplied by branches of the vertebral and ascending pharyngeal arteries (a branch of the external carotid artery), while it is drained by the vertebral vein.


The function of the rectus capitis anterior is to flex the head on the neck at the atlantooccipital joint and to stabilize the atlantooccipital joint.

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