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Muscles of the pharynx

Learning objectives

After going through this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Name the muscles of the pharynx.
  2. Describe the attachments, function, and innervation of the muscles of the pharynx.

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In the previous study unit, we learned that the pharynx, commonly known as the throat, is a muscular column that runs between the nasal and oral cavities of the head and the larynx and esophagus in the neck. It forms a common pathway for food and air passing between those structures and is essential in the process of swallowing and breathing. It also participates in the process of speaking (phonation).

The functions of the pharynx are accomplished by several muscles, divided into two groups based on the orientation of their fibers. The constrictor muscles are formed by a series of overlapping circularly oriented fibers while the longitudinal/elevator muscles have fibers that are oriented vertically. 

Curious about the muscles of the pharynx? Check out our video on this topic!

Take a quiz

Test your knowledge of the muscles of the pharynx by taking our quiz below!

To challenge yourself even further, customize your own quiz to get a broader collection of questions about the pharynx.

Browse atlas

Review all the muscles you learned today in the gallery below!


Key points about the constrictor muscles of the pharynx
Superior constrictor Origin: Pterygomandibular raphe, posterior end of mylohyoid line of mandible, pterygoid hamulus
Pharyngeal tubercle (occipital bone),pharyngeal raphe
Middle constrictor Origin: Greater and lesser horn of hyoid bone and stylohyoid ligament
: Pharyngeal raphe, blends with superior and inferior constrictors
Inferior constrictor Origin: Oblique line of thyroid cartilage (thyropharyngeal part) and cricoid cartilage (cricopharyngeal part)
Pharyngeal raphe, blends with circular esophageal fibers (cricopharyngeal part)
Function and innervation Function: Constriction of the pharynx
Vagus nerve (CN X)
Key points about the longitudinal muscles of the pharynx
Stylopharyngeus Origin: Styloid process of temporal bone
Pharyngeal wall (blends with constrictors), posterior border of thyroid cartilage
Elevation of pharynx and larynx
Glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX)
Salpingopharyngeus Origin: Cartilaginous part of auditory tube
Pharyngeal wall (blends with palatopharyngeus)
Elevation of pharynx, opens auditory tube during swallowing
Vagus nerve (CN X)
Palatopharyngeus Origin: Palatine aponeurosis, posterior border of hard palate
Pharyngeal wall (blends with contralateral palatopharyngeus), posterior border of thyroid cartilage
Elevation of pharynx; closure of isthmus of fauces
Vagus nerve (CN X)

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