Nuchal ligament

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Nuchal ligament
Nuchal ligament.PNG
Muscles connecting the arm to the spine seen from behind (nuchal ligament labeled in red at center)
Latin Ligamentum nuchae
From External occipital protuberance
To Spinous process of C7
Gray's p.290
TA A03.2.01.006
FMA 13427
Anatomical terminology

The nuchal ligament is a ligament at the back of the neck that is continuous with the supraspinous ligament.


The nuchal ligament extends from the external occipital protuberance on the skull and median nuchal line to the spinous process of the seventh cervical vertebra in the lower part of the neck.[1]

From its anterior border a fibrous lamina is given off, which is attached to the posterior tubercle of the atlas, and to the spinous processes of the cervical vertebrae, and forms a septum between the muscles on either side of the neck.

The trapezius and splenius capitis muscle attach to the nuchal ligament.

In animals[edit]

In sheep and cattle it is known as the paddywhack. It relieves the animal of the weight of its head. Dried paddywhack is commonly packaged and sold as a dog treat.[citation needed]

In most other mammals, including the great apes, the nuchal ligament is absent or present only as a thin fascia.[2] As it is required for running, not all animals have one.[3]


In humans it is a tendon-like structure that has developed independently in humans and other animals well adapted for running.[2] In some four legged animals, particularly ungulates, the nuchal ligament serves to sustain the weight of the head.

Additional images[edit]

See also[edit]

This article uses anatomical terminology; for an overview, see anatomical terminology.

External links[edit]


This article incorporates text in the public domain from the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy (1918)

  1. ^ Drake, Richard L.; Vogl, Wayne; Tibbitts, Adam W.M. Mitchell; illustrations by Richard; Richardson, Paul (2005). Gray's anatomy for students (Pbk. ed.). Philadelphia: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-443-06612-2. 
  2. ^ a b Swindler, D. R., and C. D. Wood. 1973 An Atlas of Primate Gross Anatomy. Seattle: University of Washington Press[page needed]
  3. ^ Bramble, Dennis M.; Lieberman, Daniel E. (2004). "Endurance running and the evolution of Homo". Nature 432 (7015): 345–52. Bibcode:2004Natur.432..345B. doi:10.1038/nature03052. PMID 15549097.