Influence of muscle morphometry and moment arms on the moment-generating capacity of human neck muscles

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1998 Feb 15;23(4):412-22. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199802150-00002.


Study design: The function of neck muscles was quantified by incorporating experimentally measured morphometric parameters into a three-dimensional biomechanical model.

Objective: To analyze how muscle morphometry and moment arms influence moment-generating capacity of human neck muscles in physiologic ranges of motion.

Summary of background data: Previous biomechanical analyses of the head-neck system have used simplified representations of the musculoskeletal anatomy. The force- and moment-generating properties of individual neck muscles have not been reported.

Methods: A computer graphics model was developed that incorporates detailed neck muscle morphometric data into a model of cervical musculoskeletal anatomy and intervertebral kinematics. Moment arms and force-generating capacity of neck muscles were calculated for a range of head positions.

Results: With the head in the upright neutral position, the muscles with the largest moment arms and moment-generating capacities are sternocleidomastoid in flexion and lateral bending, semispinalis capitis and splenius capitis in extension, and trapezius in axial rotation. The moment arms of certain neck muscles (e.g., rectus capitis posterior major in axial rotation) change considerably in the physiologic range of motion. Most neck muscles maintain at least 80% of their peak force-generating capacity throughout the range of motion; however, the force-generating capacities of muscles with large moment arms and/or short fascicles (e.g., splenius capitis) vary substantially with head posture.

Conclusion: These results quantify the contributions of individual neck muscles to moment-generating capacity and demonstrate that variations in force-generating capacity and moment arm throughout the range of motion can alter muscle moment-generating capacities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Head / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Models, Biological
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscles / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Neck / physiology
  • Neck Muscles / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology