German Contact How to study Login Register

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!

Sidebar ebook trimmed

Sternocleidomastoid Muscle


Anatomy and supply

sternocleidomastoid muscle

The sternocleidomastoid muscle is a two-headed neck muscle. It is innervated by the accessory nerve (cranial nerve XI) and direct branches of the cervical plexus (C1-C2). The sternal head originates from the manubrium sterni, the clavicular head from the middle part of the clavicle. The insertion is the mastoid process of the temporal bone and the superior nuchal line of the occipital bone.

The muscle lies very superficially so that it is both easily visible and palpable. The carotid pulse may be felt in the middle third of the front edge. Under the sternocleidomastoid region runs a neurovascular bundle containing the common carotid artery (medial), the internal jugular vein (lateral), the vagus nerve (dorsal) and the cervical ansa. When putting a central venous catheter (CVC) the medial edge of the sternocleidomastoid muscle serves as a lead structure. Sensory branches of the cervical plexus merge dorsally to the muscle at the Erb’s point (punctum nervosum) which can be used as a place of puncture for local anesthesia.

Recommended video: Sternocleidomastoid muscle
Origins, insertions, innervations and functions of the sternocleidomastoid muscle.


A unilateral contraction of the sternocleidomastoid muscle flexes the cervical vertebral column to the same side (lateral flexion) and rotates the head to the opposite side. A bilateral contraction elevates the head by dorsally extending the upper cervical joints. At the same time, it flexes the lower cervical column causing an overall bending of the neck towards the chest. If the head is fixed, it elevates the sternum and clavicle and, thus, expands the thoracic cavity (inspiratory breathing muscle).


During pathological changes of the sternocleidomastoid the clinical picture of the wryneck occurs (bending of the head to the affected muscle and rotation to the healthy side). A classic example for this condition is the muscular torticollis, a tonic spasm of the sternocleidomastoid. People with this disorder show difficulties swallowing, an extreme immobility of their throat, facial asymmetries and scoliosis. Approximately 0.5% of all newborn suffer under muscular torticollis however the etiology remains unclear.

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, 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. 292-293
  • W. Graumann, D. Sasse: CompactLehrbuch der gesamten Anatomie - Bd.2 - Bewegungsapparat, Schattauer Verlag (2003) S. 462-463
  • F. Hefti: Kinderorthopädie in der Praxis, 2. Auflage, Springer Verlag (2006), S. 117-120
  • E. Kennedy, M. Albert, H. Nicholson: The fascicular anatomy and peak force capabilities of the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy (2016), Springer-Verlag France, p. 1-17. DOI 10.1007/s00276-016-1768-9

Author & Layout:

  • Achudhan Karunaharamoorthy
  • Christopher A. Becker


  • Sternocleidomastoid 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.

Continue your learning

Article (You are here)
Other articles
Well done!

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.