From 'head to tail' at the posterior (back) of the body, the nuchal ligament and supraspinous ligament form a continuous strip of connective tissue on the body's midline.
Also known as the ligamentum nuchae.
nuchae = "nape" (back of the neck).
The nuchal ligament is like a 'leaf' of connective tissue, midline in the back of the neck attaching to the skull and cervical vertebrae (neck bones).
The nuchal ligament is fibro-elastic, consisting of tough collagen fibres and elastic fibres.
The top attachment of the nuchal ligament is to the external occipital protuberance (the midline bump on the back of the skull) and the median nuchal line of the skull.
It attaches to the spinous processes of the seven cervical vertebrae.
At the base of the neck (at the 7th (last) cervical vertebra) the nuchal ligament then continues down the back of the spine as the supraspinous ligament.
The left and right trapezius muscles emerge from the nuchal ligament and the thoracic portion of the supraspinous ligament. The nuchal ligament forming a septum - " a dividing wall" - between the upper parts of the trapezius muscles.
Working with the trapezius muscles allows the positioning of the nuchal ligament to be appreciated.
You should be able to easily feel the nuchal ligament in your neck (I could not!)
Extend your head backward and press your fingers on the midline of the back of your neck. Then tilt your head forward and should be able to feel the nuchal ligament 'popping out' as it tightens to limit the forward bending of your head and neck.
Continuous with the nuchal ligament, the supraspinous ligament is a strong, fibrous cord that attaches to the spinal column from the base of the neck to the lower back.
The supraspinous ligament attaches to the spinous processes of the seventh cervical vertebra, the twelve thoracic vertebrae and the upper lumbar vertebrae, usually terminating at L3, L4 or L5.
The collagen fibres of the supraspinous ligament are arranged in bundles and layers. The deepest fibres connect to the spinous processes of adjacent vertebrae, the middle fibres run between 2-3 vertebrae and the most superficial fibres span 3-4 vertebrae.
At the points of attachment to the tips of the spinous processes fibrocartilage is developed in the ligament. Intimately blended with the interspinal ligaments and neighbouring fascia.
Focusing on activating the trapezius muscles allows us to feel the relative positioning of the nuchal and supraspinous ligaments.
These midline structures should be free to fully extend and align with the linea alba on the median plane. This is possible when the body is free of restrictions and has a full range of natural movement.
© Copyright Leigh Blyth BVM&S 2017-2021