What Is Neck Muscle Called?

Reviewed on 2/22/2021
Several muscles are present in the neck to allow the movement of the neck and maintain its shape and structure.
Several muscles are present in the neck to allow the movement of the neck and maintain its shape and structure.

Several muscles are present in the neck to allow the movement of the neck and maintain its shape and structure. One of the major muscles in the neck is the trapezius. The trapezius muscles are the large muscles of the upper back. The trapezius muscles function to move, rotate, and stabilize the scapula (shoulder blade). Many muscles around the neck that help to support the cervical spine, which allows you to move the head in different directions.

  • Longus colli and capitis: Responsible for flexion (lowering the chin toward the chest) of the head and neck.
  • Rectus capitis anterior: Responsible for flexion of the neck.
  • Rectus capitis lateralis: Helps the neck to bend to the side.
  • Scalene muscles: Responsible for lifting the first and second ribs, assisting with breathing.
  • Levator scapulae: Responsible for the movement of the scapula (shoulder blade) in an upward and downward motion.
  • Rectus capitis lateralis: Allows the neck to flex from side to side.
  • Obliques capitis superior: Allows the neck to extend and flex to the side.
  • Obliques capitis inferior: Assist with head/neck rotation.

What are the causes of neck pain?

Common causes of neck pain include:

  • Muscle strain: This may be caused by factors, such as poor posture (e.g., while using a computer or smartphone, slouching), poor neck support while sleeping, watching TV, sports or workout activities, anxiety, and stress.
  • Whiplash: This is a form of neck sprain caused by the sudden back and forth movement of the neck. This stretches the neck muscles and ligaments more than normal, causing a sprain. Whiplash most commonly occurs following a car accident and may occur days after the accident.
  • Cervical spondylosis: This arthritis of the neck is related to aging. As you age, your intervertebral discs (the cushioning structures present between the bones of the spine or vertebrae) lose moisture and some of their cushioning effect. The space between your vertebrae becomes narrower, and they may begin to rub together. Your body tries to repair this damage by creating bony growths (bone spurs). This condition may not present any symptoms; however, when they do occur, the most common symptoms are neck pain and stiffness. Some other symptoms are tingling or numbness in the arms and legs if bone spurs press against nerves. There can also be a narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis).
  • Slipped disc: It is also called a herniated or bulging disc. This occurs when the tough outside layer of disc tears or ruptures and the soft jelly-like inside bulges out and presses on the nerves in your spine.

Other common symptoms

  • Pain in the shoulders and/or upper chest
  • Stiff neck
  • Difficulty turning the head

In most cases, neck pain will go away in a few days. If it doesn’t get better or if you develop other symptoms, you should see a doctor.

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What does a torn neck muscle mean?

Torn muscles, also called muscle strains, result when a muscle is overstretched. It often occurs due to:

  • An injury, such as whiplash after a car accident
  • Not warming up before strenuous physical activity
  • Lifting a heavy object incorrectly, a slip or fall, repetitive movement of muscles (such as rowing, playing football), or sitting in an awkward position for an extended period

Symptoms:

  • A torn neck muscle may feel like a sharp, stabbing pain in the neck area.
  • You may have a limited range of motion or feel a dull, achy pain in the neck area.
  • Other common symptoms of a torn neck muscle include localized swelling, soreness, stiffness, or weakness.

Treatment:

A badly torn neck muscle will likely make it very difficult to move your head and result in severe pain. A mild tear or strain may be stiff for a few days and resolve on its own. Depending on the severity of your neck injuries, the doctor may suggest the following treatment options:

  • A soft collar or halo immobilizes the neck to allows the muscles to heal.
  • Physical therapy to correct your posture and alignment and help strengthen the muscle.
  • Electrical nerve stimulation, which delivers mild electrical pulses to the area. This may help reduce the amount of pain you experience.
  • Traction, a treatment that uses weights and pulleys to stretch your neck and relieve the pain.
  • Medication, such as steroid or lidocaine injections, to relieve pain.
  • In serious cases of torn neck muscles, surgical options may be considered. Factors that may impact your treatment include age, general health, the cause of the injury, and whether any vertebrae were damaged.

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References
Panchbhavi VK. Neck Anatomy. Medscape. https://reference.medscape.com/article/1968303-overview

Shiel WC Jr. Neck Strain (Sprain) Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Recovery Time. eMedicineHealth. https://www.emedicinehealth.com/neck_strain/article_em.htm

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