The epicranius (literally meaning on top of the head) is made up four muscles on the top of the head – the two frontalis muscles of the forehead and the two occipitalis muscles behind the ears – connected by a large sheath of connective tissue called the galea aponeurotica, which stretches over the top of the skull. This muscle may also be referred to as the occipitofrontalis.
Identifying the Epicranius (Biel, 2005)
- Origin: Both of these muscles originate in the galea aponeurotica.
- Insertion: The frontalis’s insertion point is at the skin over the eyebrows. The occipitalis attaches at the superior nuchal line of the occiput, which is the part of the head where your spinal cord exits the skull.
- Action: The frontalis is a mimetic muscle, which means that it is responsible for expression emotion. This muscle is responsible for raising the eyebrows a furrowing the forehead. The occipitalis anchors the galea aponeurotica and pulls it backward, allowing the eyebrows to raise.
- Innervation: Both muscles are innervated by the seventh cranial nerve – the facial nerve. This nerve originates in the brain stems between the pons and the medulla oblongata, and is responsible for expressing emotions and conveying taste from the anterior two-thirds of the tongue.
Causes of Tightness or Injury in Epicranius
- Chronic stress, which usually causes chronic contraction of the muscles in the neck, shoulder, and facial regions.
- Keeping eyebrows raised for extended periods of time
- Frowning often
- Trauma to the facial area or back of the cranium
- Injury to the facial nerve
Symptoms of Tightness or Injury in Epicranius (Roy, 2012)
- Pain around the eyes
- Pain in the teeth
- TMJ pain
- Tension or cluster headaches
- Sensitivity to sound or light
Trigger Point Referral Pattern for Epicranius
Trigger points in the epicranius refer pain to the forehead, the top of the head, and behind the eyes.
Relieving Pain in Epicranius
Treatment for epicranius-related pain include the use of heat therapy or cryotherapy, NSAIDs, and stress relief, including massage therapy. This muscle is very superficial, so it is easily accessible during a massage session. Neuromuscular therapy will rid the muscles of trigger points, thereby relieving pain associate with trigger points.
This article is not meant to diagnose or prescribe treatment for any pathology. Massage therapy should not be considered an alternative form of medicine – it is only complementary. Please always follow the advice of your primary care physician.
Biel, A., 2005. Trail Guide to the Body, Third Edition. Book of Discovery, Boulder, CO. Pp.263-264
Roy, S. “Occipitalis.” [Internet]. KnowYourBody.net. [Updated 2012 Jul 28]. Available from: https://www.knowyourbody.net/occipitalis-2.html
“Epicranius.” 2016 Jun 19. clicktocurecancer.info
“Occipitofrontalis (Epicranius) – Common Trigger Point Sites.” 2017 Apr 14. neilasher.com