Muscles of the neck (overview)
The neck is the region between the head and the rest of the body, which is built of different tissue and organs, including many skeletal muscles providing movements of the head.
The main functions of the neck muscles are to permit movements of the neck or head and provide structural support for the head.
These muscles can be classified based on their location or position in the neck region. Muscles in one group share similar functions.
The muscles of the neck, according to their location, are as follows:
- Superficial neck muscles - they are the most external and include the platysma and sternocleidomastoid;
- Suprahyoid muscles - muscles located above the hyoid bone and all of them elevate this bone; this group include the digastric, mylohyoid, stylohyoid, and geniohyoid muscles;
- Infrahyoid muscles - situated below the hyoid bone and participate in depressing it; this group includes the omohyoid, sternohyoid, sternothyroid, and thyrohyoid;
- Prevertebral muscles (anterior vertebral muscles of the neck) - situated anterior and deep to the vertebral column; they are surrounded by the prevertebral fascia of the neck, that is why they are named the prevertebral muscles; these are the longus capitis, longus colli, rectus capitis anterior and rectus capitus lateralis (the last two may also be considered as anterior suboccipital muscles);
- Scalene muscles - located in the lateral part of the neck, therefore they are also called the lateral vertebral muscles of the neck; there are three - anterior, middle, and posterior - scalene muscles on each side;
- Suboccipital muscles - four paired muscles situated in the upper posterior part of the neck below the occipital bone, including the rectus capitis posterior major, rectus capitis posterior minor, obliquus capitis inferior, obliquus capitis superior (these muscles can also be categorized among the deep muscles of the back).
All muscles can also be classified into three larger groups depending on their position in the neck:
- Anterior muscles of the neck - these muscles are positioned in the anterior part of the neck; they include the superficial muscles, anterior vertebral muscles, suprahyoid and infrahyoid muscles;
- Lateral muscles of the neck - as the name says, these muscles are located on the lateral neck aspect; they are the scalene muscles;
- Posterior muscles of the neck - situated in the posterior neck region; these are the suboccipital muscles.
Several muscles of the back extend up to the neck region and are partly connected with the cervical part of the vertebral column. These muscles are covered in our articles about the superficial and deep back muscles (in the category "Spine and back"). These muscles include the trapezius, levator scapulae, splenius muscles (capitis and cervicis), iliocostalis, longissimus, rotatores spinae, semispinalis, interspinales, and intertransversarii muscles.