Anatomy & Organs

Musculus splenius – structure, function & diseases

Splenic muscle

The neck muscles are a very sensitive and important structure in our body. It not only allows us to perform numerous movements, but also stabilizes our spine and enables a healthy posture. An important muscle for this is the musculus splenius .

What is the splenius muscle?

The splenius muscle is a back muscle. It belongs to the group of skeletal muscles and is part of the lateral part of the erector spinae muscle, the autochthonous muscles of the spine.

The back muscles are of great importance for the movement of the upper body. These include extension, rotation and side bending. In addition, it represents a permanent stabilization of the spine. The back muscles can be regarded as an active tension system, since they strengthen the spine from the head to the pelvic girdle, including the ribs . Autochthonous back muscles are deep back muscles that are supplied by the dorsal spinal nerves. The superficial back muscles are activated by the abdominal spinal nerves .

Autochthon means “created on site”. This means that muscles that arose here have not migrated. Over the course of human development, the non-autochthonous muscles have grown towards the back as an embryo and lie on top of the autochthonous muscles, i.e. superficially.

Anatomy & Structure

The autochthonous muscles are divided into three sections. The structure is based on nerve supply through the N. spinalis. The posterior branch, also called the posterior branch, of the spinal nerve supplies the back muscles, which are divided into two tracts. The medial tract is supplied by the medial branch of the posterior ramus and the lateral one by the lateral branch of the posterior ramus. The M. splenius belongs to the lateral tract of the autochthonous back muscles.The lateral tract lies between the transverse processes and the costal angle, also called Angulus costae. In addition to the attachment points to the transverse and spinous processes of the spine and the rib sections, the muscles also attach to the skull and coccyx , the os sacrum. The most efficient muscle is the extensor muscle longissimus. The musculus plenius consists of two parts, the musculus splenius capitis and the musculus splenius cervicis.

The musculus splenius capitis has its origin close to the head on the spinal process (processus spinosi) of the 3rd-7th cervical vertebra , as well as the 1st-3rd thoracic vertebra. Another important point is the ligamentum nuchae, the neck ligament. Its approach is at the upper neck line (Linea nuchae superior).

The Musculus spleniius cervicis has its origin a little lower on the spinal spinous process of the 3rd-5th thoracic vertebra, as well as on the temporal bone (Proccesus Mastoideus) and the occipital bone (Os occipitale) and attaches to the rear tubercle (Tubercula posterior) of the bony process of the cervical vertebrae 1-3.

The general function of the autochthonous back muscles is dorsiflexion or trunk straightening. They take on this function because they lie dorsal to the transversal axis of flexion and extension (flexion and extension axis).

Function & Tasks

The function of the M. splenius is a dorsiflexion, i.e. tilting the back of the head, by contracting the muscle on both sides. This is also called reclining the head, ie stretching the cervical spine .

In addition, a one-sided contraction can enable rotation and lateral inclination of the head and the cervical spine to the same side. Thus, the M. splenius with the other autochthonous muscles in the cervical and thoracic spine enables us to move as far as possible in all directions.


The muscles of the cervical and thoracic spine are very sensitive to stress and cause headaches and neck pain in many patients . A permanent incorrect posture or movement can lead to tension. These restrict the movement of the head and primarily cause local pressure sensitivity and pain. This manifests itself in neck pain. Since the muscles are constantly tense to stabilize our head and spine, the pain persists even at rest. The result can be a stiff neck.Such diseases are often found in office workers, which is why there is also the term: “Word Processor Headache”. In addition, the muscle is often severely irritated by sudden contractions, such as trauma from a car accident. Another risk factor for muscle irritation is exposure to cold drafts, such as those from air conditioning or riding a motorcycle. In addition to neck stiffness, tension can also cause vision to deteriorate.

It is important to note that breathing can also cause pain. Chest or rather rib pain is mainly caused by tension in the neck and in the thoracic spine. The cause is the close anatomical connection between the muscles and the bones . Tension in the cervical spine and/or the thoracic spine tenses the breathing mobility of the ribs. The result is a pulling pain in the chest and shallow breathing.

Once the tension is there, it rarely goes away on its own. Besides physical therapy prescribed by the doctor , you can do some exercises for your neck yourself. The possible exercises for your neck muscles are very similar to the normal range of motion of your neck muscles. 

1. Slowly let your head fall back . Now slowly circle your head once to the starting point. You can do this several times a day to stretch your muscles.

2. Tilt your head to the left. Your right arm will be hanging next to your hip . With your left hand, you can increase the stretch if needed by gently adding some pressure. Hold this position for 20 seconds, breathing deeply, and repeat for the right side. If you feel no improvement or even a deterioration, it is advisable to consult a doctor.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.