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Obliquus capitis superior

The obliquus capitis superior (Latin: musculus obliquus capitis superior) is a small paired triangular muscle of the neck that stretches between the occipital bone of the skull and the first cervical vertebra. It is located in the posterior compartment of the neck. Therefore, the obliquus capitis inferior is one of the posterior neck muscles. It is located in the deepest layer of the group. As the obliquus capitis superior is situated below the occipital bone, it is classified as the suboccipital muscle. It acts at two joints - the atlanto-occipital and atlanto-axial joints.

Obliquus capitis superior
OriginTransverse process of atlas (C1)
InsertionLateral aspect of inferior nuchal line of occipital bone

Unilateral contractions - head lateral flexion (ipsilateral)

Bilateral contractions - head extension

Innervation Suboccipital nerve (posterior ramus of 1st cervical spinal nerve (C1))
Blood supply Branches of vertebral and occipital arteries



The obliquus capitis superior muscle originates from the transverse process of the atlas (C1).

Obliquus capitis superior, Suboccipital muscles, Posterior neck muscles, Neck muscles, Head and neck muscles, Posterior view, Obliquus capitis superior muscle colored blue
Obliquus capitis superior muscle by



The fibers of the obliquus capitis superior insert on the lateral aspect of the inferior nuchal line located on the external surface of the occipital bone.



By bilateral contractions, the obliquus capitis superior muscle extends the head at the atlanto-occipital joint. By unilateral contractions, it provides head lateral flexion to the ipsilateral side at the atlanto-axial joint.



The obliquus capitis superior is innervated by the suboccipital nerve - the posterior ramus of the 1st cervical spinal nerve (C1).


Blood supply

The obliquus capitis superior muscle receives arterial blood supply from the branches of the vertebral and occipital arteries.