musculoskeletal system

February 20, 2023

The Musculoskeletal System of the Head and Neck

The human musculoskeletal system (also known as the locomotor system, and previously the activity system) is an organ system that gives humans the ability to move using their muscular and skeletal systems. The musculoskeletal system provides form, support, stability, and movement to the body. It is made up of the bones of the skeleton, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissue that supports and binds tissues and organs together. The musculoskeletal system’s primary functions include supporting the body, allowing motion, and protecting vital organs.

Musculoskeletal system of the head and Neck misdiagnosis do occur

Today, the relationship between musculoskeletal conditions and how they often relate to myofascial pain is missed. Because a person’s muscles used to show surprise, disgust, anger, fear, and other emotions, are an important means of nonverbal communication, clinicians are paying more attention to them. This includes muscles of facial expression including frontalis, orbicularis oris, laris oculi, buccinator, and zygomaticus.

The skeletal portion of the system serves as the main storage system for calcium and phosphorus and contains critical components of the hematopoietic system. This system describes how bones are connected to other bones and muscle fibers via connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments. The bones provide stability to the body. Muscles keep bones in place and also play a role in the movement of bones.

How the Musculoskeletal System of the Head and Neck Works

To allow motion, different bones are connected by joints. Cartilage prevents the bone ends from rubbing directly onto each other. Muscles contract to move the bone attached to the joint. There are, however, diseases and disorders that may adversely affect the function and overall effectiveness of the system. These diseases can be difficult to diagnose due to the close relation of the musculoskeletal system to other internal systems. The musculoskeletal system refers to the system having its muscles attached to an internal skeletal system and is necessary for humans to move to a more favorable position. Complex issues and injuries involving the musculoskeletal system are usually handled by a physiatrist (specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation) or an orthopaedic surgeon.

The neck muscles, including the sternocleidomastoid and the trapezius, are responsible for the main motor movement in the muscular system of the head and neck. They are responsible for diverse tasks that require both strong, forceful movements as well as some of the fastest, finest, and most delicate adjustments in the entire human body.

A complement of tightly interlaced muscles works together, which allows the tongue a range of complex movements for chewing and swallowing. Additionally, they support the important function of producing speech. Of these, four extrinsic muscle sets (connecting the tongue to the surrounding bones) move the tongue in virtually any direction needed, with fine shape changes occurring in the province of the four intrinsic tongue muscles. 

Musculoskeletal System of the Head and Neck are Tied to your Human Skeletal Muscle System

They are a unique set of muscles. The human skeletal muscles are divided into axial (muscles of the trunk and head) and appendicular (muscles of the arms and legs) categories. Many of your most important daily functions are carried out with your head and neck region. Let’s look at what that typically involves.

Your ability to chew, talk, yawn, laugh and other natural functions rely on the health of your head and neck’s musculoskeletal system. In the image above, only two of the more obvious and superficial neck muscles are identified in the illustration: sternocleidomastoid and trapezius. There are numerous additional muscles associated with the throat, the hyoid bone and the vertebral column that are also important to the Musculoskeletal System of the head and Neck.

The muscles in your head perform a variety of key functions such as mastication, vision, and movements of the eyes, nose, ears, forehead, and the mouth to generate facial expressions. Their relationship to your neck muscles is very close for normal day functioning with pain. The most important and biggest muscle in your neck is known as the sternocleidomastoid or SCM muscle. Any impairment in the healthy functioning of this muscle can severely limit the range of motion of the neck.

To summarize, you have twenty-six identified key muscles in your head and neck. They are prone to injury from strain, overuse, and injury. Because these muscles are responsible for a wide range of motions from the movement of the head and neck to vision muscles, see your pain specialist if you have any concerns.

Image source: NIH’s Cancer Institute


Our mission is to provide high-quality, effective patient care for head and neck disorders through a multispecialty, interdisciplinary approach designed to reduce pain and improve function for all our patients.

3475 Plymouth Blvd # 200, Minneapolis, MN 55447


Plymouth: (763) 577-2484
Fax: (763) 577-1375

St. Paul: (651) 332-7474
Fax: (651) 332-7475

Burnsville: (952) 892-6222
Fax: (952) 892-6477

St. Cloud: (763) 233-7252
Fax: (952) 892-6477

Copyright by Minnesota Neck and Pain Clinic 2024. All rights reserved.