Lesser occipital nerve

Last revised by Rohit Sharma on 27 Mar 2023

The lesser occipital nerve, also known as the small occipital nerve, is a cutaneous branch of the cervical plexus that innervates the skin of the neck and scalp posterior and superior to the auricle.

The lesser occipital nerve arises from the ventral ramus of C2, although it often receives fibers from C3 as well.

After branching from the ventral ramus of C2 the lesser occipital nerve hooks around the accessory nerve and emerges along the posterior aspect of the sternocleidomastoid muscle at the punctum nervosum (Erb’s point). The nerve then travels superiorly along the posterior border of the sternocleidomastoid muscle. At the occiput the lesser occipital nerve pierces the deep fascia and arborises. The terminal branches of the lesser occipital nerve communicates with lateral branches of the greater auricular nerve.

The lesser occipital nerve can be identified easily along the posterior border of the sternocleidomastoid muscle. It should be noted that the sensory fibers of C1 provide a branch to the meninges.

Along with the other cutaneous branches of the cervical plexus the lesser occipital nerve passes posterior to the sternocleidomastoid muscle at the punctum nervosum (Erb’s point) roughly midway between the origin and insertion of the muscle.

  • lesser occipital nerve block

  • lesser occipital neurolysis or neurectomy

  • occipital nerve stimulation

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewer/no ads

Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: lesser occipital nerve
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 2: cervical plexus labeled
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 3: nerves of the face, scalp and neck (Gray's illustration)
    Drag here to reorder.