Muscles of the anterior neck
After this study unit you’ll be able to:
- Identify the different groups of muscles that are located on the anterior aspect of the neck.
- Name the muscles of each group and their attachments.
- Describe the innervation and function of each of these muscles.
The anterior neck muscles are a group of muscles located anterior to the cervical spine. Based on their location they can be further divided into the following subgroups:
- The superficial muscles are the most superficial in the anterior neck, and include the platysma and sternocleidomastoid muscles.
- The scalene muscles pass obliquely along the lateral sides of the neck, and include the scalenus anterior, middle and posterior muscles.
- The suprahyoid muscles, as the name suggests, are found superior to the hyoid bone, and include the digastric, mylohyoid, geniohyoid and stylohyoid muscles.
- The infrahyoid muscles (a.k.a. strap muscles) are found inferior to the hyoid bone and consist of the sternohyoid, omohyoid, sternothyroid and thyrohyoid muscles.
- The prevertebral muscles are a deep group of muscles located just anterior to the cervical vertebral column. These include the rectus capitis anterior, rectus capitis lateralis, longus capitis and longus colli muscles.
The muscles associated with the larynx and pharynx are discussed in separate study units specific to those organs.
The following video gives you a comprehensive overview of the anterior neck muscles:
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Browse our atlas gallery to look at each muscle in detail.
Platysma: arises from skin/fascia of infra- and supraclavicular regions, attaches to mandible and skin/subcutaneous tissue of lower face; innervated by facial nerve (CN VII)
Function: muscle of facial expression
Sternocleidomastoid muscle: manubrium of sternum (sternal head) and medial third of clavicle (clavicular head), attaches to mastoid process of temporal bone and superior nuchal line of occipital bone; innervated by accessory nerve (CN XI) and spinal nerves C2 and C3
Function: ipsilateral flexion and contralateral rotation of neck (unilateral contraction), flexion/extension of neck (bilateral contraction)
Scalenus anterior: runs from transverse processes of vertebrae C3-C6 to scalene tubercle/superior border rib 1; innervated by anterior rami of spinal nerves C4-C6
Scalenus medius: runs from transverse processes of vertebrae C2-C7 to superior border of rib 1; innervated by anterior rami of spinal nerves C3-C8
Scalenus posterior: runs from transverse processes of vertebrae C5-C7 to external surface of rib 2; innervated by anterior rami of spinal nerves C6-C8
Function: ipsilateral flexion and contralateral rotation of neck (unilateral contraction), neck flexion (bilateral contraction), elevate rib 1 (anterior and middle scalene) and rib 2 (posterior scalene)
Digastric: arises from digastric fossa of mandible (anterior belly) and mastoid notch of temporal bone (posterior belly), attaches to body of hyoid bone; innervated by inferior alveolar nerve (anterior belly) and facial nerve (posterior belly)
Mylohyoid: runs from mylohyoid line of mandible to body of hyoid bone; innervated by inferior alveolar nerve (CN V3)
Geniohyoid: runs from inferior mental spine to body of hyoid bone; innervated by hypoglossal nerve (CN XII)
Stylohyoid: runs from styloid process of temporal bone to body of hyoid bone; innervated by facial nerve (CN VII)
Function: elevate hyoid bone and move the larynx and pharynx, thus aiding deglutition and voice production (if mandible is fixed); depress the mandible and assist in opening of the mouth (if hyoid bone is fixed)
Sternohyoid: runs from manubrium of sternum and medial end of clavicle to inferior border of body of hyoid bone; innervated by anterior rami of spinal nerves C1-C3 (via ansa cervicalis)
Sternothyroid: runs from manubrium of sternum and costal cartilage of rib 1 to oblique line of thyroid cartilage; innervated by anterior rami of spinal nerves C1-C3 (via ansa cervicalis)
Thyrohyoid: runs from oblique line of thyroid cartilage to inferior border of body and greater horn of hyoid bone; innervated by spinal nerve C1 (via hypoglossal nerve (CN XII)
Omohyoid: inferior belly extends from superior border of scapula to intermediate tendon, superior belly extends from intermediate tendon to body of hyoid bone; innervated by anterior rami of spinal nerves C1-C3 (via ansa cervicalis)
Function: depress hyoid bone and larynx after they have been elevated by the suprahyoid muscles; this opens airways again after swallowing
Rectus capitis anterior: runs from lateral mass of atlas (C1) to basilar part of the occipital bone; innervated by anterior rami of spinal nerves C1-C2
Rectus capitis lateralis: runs from transverse process of atlas (C1) to jugular process of occipital bone; innervated by anterior rami of spinal nerves C1-C2
Longus capitis: runs from transverse processes of vertebrae C3-C6 to basilar part of occipital bone; innervated by anterior rami of spinal nerves C1-C3
Longus colli: runs between anterior surfaces of vertebrae C1 to T3 (three parts); innervated by anterior rami of spinal nerves C2-C6
Function: rotation of the head (unilateral contraction), flexion of the head (bilateral contraction)
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