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Semispinalis capitis muscle

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Overview of the intrinsic muscles of the back.
Semispinalis capitis muscle (Musculus semispinalis capitis)

Semispinalis capitis is a long paired muscle that belongs to the deep layer of muscles of the back. It forms the superior, and largest, component of the three-part semispinalis muscle. With semispinalis cervicis and semispinalis thoracis forming the middle and inferior divisions of the muscle, respectively. There is no lumbar spine division for the semispinalis muscle.

The semispinalis muscle is found lying on either side of the vertebral column spanning from the occipital bone to as far as to the tenth thoracic vertebrae. Of the three components, thoracis sits the most medially, and capitis the most laterally. Together the semispinalis, multifidus and rotatores muscles comprises the deep (transversospinal) layer of the back muscles. These muscles participate in extension, lateral flexion and rotation of the head, cervical and thoracic spine.

Key facts about the semispinalis capitis muscle
Origin Articular processes of vertebrae C4-C7, transverse processes of vertebrae T1-T6
Insertion Between superior and inferior nuchal lines of occipital bone
Action Bilateral contraction - extension of head, cervical and thoracic spine 
Unilateral contraction - lateral flexion of head, cervical and thoracic spine (ipsilateral), rotation of head, cervical and thoracic spine (contralateral)
Innervation Descending branches of greater occipital nerve (C2) and spinal nerve C3
Blood supply Occipital artery 

This article will discuss the anatomy and functions of semispinalis capitis muscle. 

  1. Anatomy
  2. Sources
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Semispinalis capitis spans the neck and upper back regions as it runs from the cervical and thoracic vertebrae to the occipital bone. Its muscle tendons arise from the articular processes of vertebrae C4-C7 and transverse processes of vertebrae T1-T6. From these attaching tendons, the muscle fibers of semispinalis capitis converge into a single muscle belly that runs superiorly across the lateral side of the vertebral column. The muscle inserts onto the occipital bone, between superior and inferior nuchal lines and posterior to the insertions of obliquus superior, rectus capitis posterior major and rectus capitis posterior minor muscles

The outer surface of semispinalis capitis is covered by splenius capitis muscle, while it’s inner surface overlies semispinalis cervicis muscle. Semispinalis muscles are located medial to longissimus muscle, which comprises the central cord of erector spinae muscle.

Semispinalis capitis muscle receives its innervation through the greater occipital nerve (posterior ramus of C2 spinal nerve) and spinal nerve C3. Blood supply comes from the occipital artery that arises from the external carotid artery

Regarding function, semispinalis capitis assists obliquus capitis superior, splenius, trapezius, rectus capitis posterior major and rectus capitis posterior minor muscles to extend the head, cervical and thoracic spines. Unilateral contraction however results in ipsilateral lateral flexion of the head, cervical and thoracic spine, and contralateral rotation of head, cervical and thoracic spine. 

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