German Contact How to study Login Register

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!

Sidebar ebook trimmed

Scalene Muscles


Anatomy and supply

Scalenus anterior muscle

The scalene muscles (Latin: “ladder”) are three paired cervical muscles running from the cervical vertebrae to the upper two ribs. Hereby they form a roof over the pleura and the upper thorax. The innervation is carried by direct branches of the cervical and brachial plexuses (C3-6). The scalene muscles are subdivided into:

  • Scalenus anterior muscle: runs from the anterior tubercula of the transverse processes of the 3rd to 6th cervical vertebrae to the first rib.
  • Scalenus medius muscle: originates at the posterior tubercula of the transverse processes of the 3rd to 7th cervical vertebrae and inserts at the first rib dorsally to the scalenus anterior muscle.
  • Scalenus posterior muscle: has its origin at the posterior tubercula of the transverse processes of the 5th to 7th cervical vertebrae and its insertion at the second rib.

The triangle between the scalenus anterior muscle, the scalenus medius muscle and the first rib form the interscalene triangle. The subclavian artery and the brachial plexus pass through this gap. In contrary, the subclavian vein runs ventrally from the scalenus anterior muscle.

Recommended video: Scalene muscles
Origins, insertions, innervation and functions of the scalene muscles.


The scalene muscles elevate the ribs, and therefore the thorax. For that reason, they are also considered as accessory muscles of inspiration. A unilateral contraction bends the cervical spine to the side (lateral flexion). Furthermore, a bilateral contraction of the scalenus anterior muscle causes a bending of the cervical spine to the front (ventral flexion).


A too narrow interscalene triangle compresses the brachial plexus and subclavian artery (Scalene syndrome) causing paresthesia, more rarely circulatory disturbances (e.g. edema, ischemia) and pain. Typically the ulnar side and the little finger are affected. Causes for the Scalene syndrome may be, amongst others, a hypertrophy of the scalene muscles due to chronic overload and variations or deformities of the first rib.

Get me the rest of this article for free
Create your account and you'll be able to see the rest of this article, plus videos and a quiz to help you memorize the information, all for free. You'll also get access to articles, videos, and quizzes about dozens of other anatomy systems.
Create your free account ➞
Show references


  • D. Drenckhahn/J. Waschke: Taschenbuch Anatomie, 1.Auflage, Urban & Fischer Verlag/Elsevier (2008), S.189
  • M. Schünke/E. Schulte/U. Schumacher: Prometheus – LernAtlas der Anatomie – Allgemeine Anatomie und Bewegungssystem, 2.Auflage, Thieme Verlag (2007), S.156-157
  • A. Waldeyer: Anatomie des Menschen, 17.Auflage, De Gruyter (2003), S.238
  • W. Hacke: Neurologie, 13.Auflage, Springer Verlag (2010), S.663-664
  • A. Hüter-Becker/M. Dölken: Physiotherapie in der Orthopädie, 1.Auflage, Thieme Verlag (2005), S.248-249

Author & Layout:

  • Achudhan Karunaharamoorthy
  • Christopher A. Becker


  • scalenus anterior muscle - Yousun Koh 
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!

Sidebar ebook trimmed
Create your free account.
Start learning anatomy in less than 60 seconds.