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Keeping your Posture Right: All about the Splenius Capitis

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For individuals dealing with neck or arm pain and migraine headache symptoms it could be a splenius capitis muscle injury. Can knowing the causes and symptoms help healthcare providers develop an effective treatment plan?

Keeping your Posture Right: All about the Splenius Capitis

Splenius Capitis Muscles

The splenius capitis is a deep muscle located on the upper back. Along with the splenius cervicis, it comprises the superficial layer – one of the three – of intrinsic back muscles. The splenius capitis works with the splenius cervicis, a smaller muscle located below it, to help rotate the neck and lower the chin to the chest, known as flexing. Maintaining a healthy posture is important because it helps keep the head in a neutral position.

  • Starting at the midline of the spine at C3 to T3, the splenius capitis spans the levels between the 7th cervical vertebra to the 3rd or 4th thoracic vertebrae, which varies for different individuals.
  • The muscle inserts at the nuchal ligament, which is a strong ligament of the neck.
  • The splenius capitis muscle angles up and out, attaching to the skull.
  • The splenius capitis and cervicis cover the vertical paraspinals, which are deeper and comprise the intermediate layer of the intrinsic back muscles.
  • The splenius muscles look like a bandage for the paraspinals and the vertical muscles that comprise the deepest layer.
  • The splenius muscles hold these deeper layers in the correct position.
  • These muscles start at the center of the spine and together form a V shape.
  • The sides of the V are thick, and the central indentation is shallow.

Pain

It’s common for individuals to experience pain associated with injury to the splenius capitis. This type of pain is known as splenius capitis syndrome. (Ernest E, Ernest M. 2011)

Symptoms

A headache stemming from injury often mimics a migraine headache. Symptoms of splenius capitis syndrome include: (Ernest E, Ernest M. 2011)

  • Neck pain
  • Arm pain
  • Pain at the back of the head
  • Headache at the temples
  • Pressure behind the eye
  • Pain behind, above, or under the eye
  • Sensitivity to light

Causes

Injury to the splenius capitis can result from: (Ernest E, Ernest M. 2011)

  • Unhealthy posture for prolonged periods
  • Constantly flexing or rotating the neck
  • Sleeping in awkward positions
  • Falling injuries
  • Automobile collision
  • Sports injuries

Treatment

It’s recommended to contact a healthcare provider if experiencing symptoms that interfere with daily activities or quality of life. A healthcare provider will:

  • Review the individual’s medical history
  • Ask questions about the injury
  • Perform a physical exam (Ernest E, Ernest M. 2011)

Treatment protocols and approaches to relieve symptoms and restore function can involve one or a combination of treatments that include:

  • Ice and heat applications
  • Physical therapy
  • Therapeutic massage
  • Chiropractic realignment
  • Non-surgical decompression
  • Acupuncture
  • Neck stretches
  • Pain medication (short-term)
  • Injections
  • Minimally invasive surgery

Neck Injuries


References

Ernest E, Ernest M. Practical Pain Management. (2011). Splenius Capitis Muscle Syndrome.

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The information herein on "Keeping your Posture Right: All about the Splenius Capitis" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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