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Sternocleidomastoid muscle

The triangles of the neck. (Anterior triangles to the left; posterior triangles to the right.)
Muscles of the neck. Lateral view.
Latin musculus sternocleidomastoideus
Gray's subject #111 390
Origin: manubrium sterni, medial portion of the clavicle
Insertion: mastoid process of the temporal bone, superior nuchal line
Artery: occipital artery and the superior thyroid artery
Nerve: motor: accessory nerve
sensory: cervical plexus
Action: Acting alone, tilts head to its own side and rotates it so the face is turned towards the opposite side.

Acting together, flexes the neck, raises the sternum and assists in forced inspiration.

Dorlands/Elsevier m_22/12550942

In human anatomy, the sternocleidomastoid (pronounced /ˌstɚ.noˌkli.dəˈmæs.tɔɪ̯d/) muscles are anterior muscles in the neck that act to flex and rotate the head.

It also acts as an accessory muscle of inspiration, along with the scalene muscles of the neck.



It is given the name sternocleidomastoid because it originates with the (manubrium)/sternum (sterno-) and clavicle (cleido-), and articulates with the mastoid process of the temporal bone of the skull. It is also called the sternomastoid muscle.

Origins and insertions of the two heads

The Sternocleidomastoideus (Sternomastoid muscle) passes obliquely across the side of the neck.

It is thick and narrow at its central part, but broader and thinner at either end. It arises from the sternum and clavicle by two heads.

  • The medial or sternal head is a rounded fasciculus, tendinous in front, fleshy behind, which arises from the upper part of the anterior surface of the manubrium sterni, and is directed upward, lateralward, and backward.
  • The lateral or clavicular head, composed of fleshy and aponeurotic fibers, arises from the superior border and anterior surface of the medial third of the clavicle; it is directed almost vertically upward.

The two heads are separated from one another at their origins by a triangular interval, but gradually blend, below the middle of the neck, into a thick, rounded muscle which is inserted, by a strong tendon, into the lateral surface of the mastoid process, from its apex to its superior border, and by a thin aponeurosis into the lateral half of the superior nuchal line of the occipital bone.


The Sternocleidomastoideus varies much in the extent of its origin from the clavicle: in some cases the clavicular head may be as narrow as the sternal; in others it may be as much as 7.5 cm. in breadth.

When the clavicular origin is broad, it is occasionally subdivided into several slips, separated by narrow intervals.

More rarely, the adjoining margins of the Sternocleidomastoideus and Trapezius have been found in contact.

The Supraclavicularis muscle arises from the manubrium behind the Sternocleidomastoideus (also known as the wing and named after a large prehistoric bird) and passes behind the Sternocleidomastoideus to the upper surface of the clavicle.

Cultural significance

  • Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities featured a lawyer fond of clenching his sternocleidomastoid muscles.
  • In the Portuguese movie A Canção de Lisboa, the main character, Vasco, who is studying Medicine, is asked in his final exam where the Sternocleidomastoid muscle is located. The name of the muscle became famous in Portugal after this movie.

Additional images


This article was originally based on an entry from a public domain edition of Gray's Anatomy. As such, some of the information contained herein may be outdated. Please edit the article if this is the case, and feel free to remove this notice when it is no longer relevant.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sternocleidomastoid_muscle". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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