Changes in deep neck muscle length from the neutral to forward head posture. A cadaveric study using Thiel cadavers

Guohao Lin, Weijie Wang, Tracey Wilkinson (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
478 Downloads (Pure)


Forward head posture (FHP) is one of the most common postural deviations. Deep neck muscle imbalance of individuals with FHP is of primary concern in clinical rehabilitation. However, there is scarce quantitative research on changes in deep neck muscle length with the head moving forward. This study aimed to investigate changes in deep neck muscle length with different severity levels of FHP. Six Thiel-embalmed cadavers (four males and two females) were dissected, and 16 deep neck muscles in each cadaver were modeled by a MicroScribe 3D Digitizer in the neutral head posture, slight FHP, and severe FHP. The craniovertebral angle was used to evaluate the degrees of FHP. Quantitative length change of the deep neck muscles was analyzed using Rhinoceros 3D. In slight FHP significant changes in length occurred in four muscles: two shortened (upper semispinalis capitis, rectus capitis posterior minor) and two lengthened (longus capitis, splenius cervicis). In severe FHP all occipital extensors were significantly shortened (10.6 ± 6.4%), except for obliquus capitis superior, and all cervical extensors were significantly lengthened (4.8 ± 3.4%), while longus capitis (occipital flexor) and the superior oblique part of the longus colli (cervical flexor) were lengthened by 8.8 ± 3.8% and 4.2 ± 3.1%, respectively. No significant length change was observed for the axial rotator. This study presents an alternate anatomical insight into the clinical rehabilitation of FHP. Six muscles appear to be important in restoring optimal head posture, with improvements in FHP being related to interventions associated with the occipital and cervical extensors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-339
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number3
Early online date17 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • cervical spine
  • deep neck muscles
  • forward head posture
  • muscle length change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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