Ligamentum nuchae

Dr Craig Hacking and Dr Dinesh Palipana et al.

The ligamentum nuchae is a large median ligament composed of tendons and fascia located between the posterior muscles of the neck. It covers the spines of C1 to C6 vertebrae. While it has been thought of as a rudiment of evolution, the ligamentum nuchae may contribute to stability in this area. 

The ligamentum nuchae consists of the dorsal raphe and medial septal parts. The dorsal raphe attaches to muscles while the medial septum does not.

Dorsal raphe

The dorsal raphe is superficial to the posterior midline of the neck.  It extends from the occipital protuberance to the spinous process of the C7 vertebra. The superior portion consists of medial fibres from the cervical trapezius. The inferior portion consists of interweaving tendons from splenius capitis and rhomboid minor.

Medial septum

The medial septum extends from the ventral surface of the dorsal raphe. The medial septum isolates the semispinalis capitis ventrally and laterally. Thus, the semispinalis cervicis, multifidus and opposite semispinalis capitis remain separate. 

The medial septum runs deep into the vertebral column. It reaches depths as far as the ligamentum flavum. The medial septum blends into the posterior atlanto-occipital and atlanto-axial membranes. It is attached to the posterior dura mater along these membranes. 

Superiorly, it is attached to the external occipital crest and posterior tubercle of the atlas.

Spinal anatomy
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Article information

rID: 44781
Section: Anatomy
Tags: spine, anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Nuchal ligament

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