Do longus capitis and colli really stabilise the cervical spine? A study of their fascicular anatomy and peak force capabilities
Kennedy, Ewan; Albert, Michael; Nicholson, Helen
Background Longus capitis and colli are proposed to play a role in stabilising the cervical spine, targeted in clinical and research practice with cranio-cervical flexion. However, it is not clear if these muscles are anatomically or biomechanically suited to a stabilising role. Objectives To describe the fascicular morphology of the longus capitis and colli, and estimate their peak force generating capabilities across the individual cervical motion segments. Study Design Biomechanical force modelling based on anatomical data Methods Three-part design including cadaveric dissection (n=7), in vivo MRI muscle volume calculation from serial slices in young healthy volunteers (n=6), and biomechanical modelling of the peak force generating capacities based on computed tomography scans of the head and neck. Results Longus capitis and colli are small muscles spanning multiple cervical motion segments. Bilateral peak flexion torque estimates were higher in the upper cervical spine (0.5 Nm), and unlikely to affect motion below the level of C5 (<0.2 Nm). Peak shear estimates were negligible (<20 N), while peak compression estimates were small (<80 N). Conclusions These data highlight the complex anatomy and small force capacity of longus capitis and colli, and have implications for their function. In particular, the small peak compression forces indicate that these muscles have a limited capacity to contribute to cervical stability via traditional mechanisms. This implies that the mechanism(s) by which cranio-cervical flexion exercises produce clinical benefits is worth exploring further.
Publisher: Elsevier Ltd
Rights Statement: The final publication is available via Elsevier at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.msksp.2017.10.005
Keywords: Longus capitis; Longus colli; Deep cervical flexors; Deep neck flexors; Physiotherapy; Clinical anatomy; Anatomy; Biomechanics; Neck muscles; Neck pain
Research Type: Journal Article