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Face, Neck, and Back Muscles: Anatomy and Overview

Andrea Taktak, Heather Adewale
  • Author
    Andrea Taktak

    Mrs. Taktak is in her 21st year of teaching high school science courses. She has designed curriculum and lessons for Forensic Science and Sports Medicine, and has taught Honors Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Physical Science, and Environmental Science. Mrs. Taktak is a Master Teacher with a Teacher Leader Endorsement and has a Masters Degree in Education from Graceland University as well as a Bachelors of Science degree from Northern Kentucky University. She also most recently earned her Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist certificate while studying and volunteering at the Cincinnati Nature Center.

  • Instructor
    Heather Adewale

    Heather has taught reproductive biology and has researched neuro, repro and endocrinology. She has a PhD in Zoology/Biology.

Discover the muscles of the face, neck, and back. Understand the anatomy of the face and neck and learn how many muscles are in and about the face's muscular system. Updated: 02/07/2022

Table of Contents


How Many Muscles Are in the Face?

When studying the anatomy of the face, it is interesting to know that there are 43 muscles located in the face and head region. These muscles often work together to perform a variety of facial expressions and movements of the eyes, lips, and cheeks. There are varying opinions on exactly how many muscles are involved in smiling versus frowning, but most agree that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. Like all regions of the body, there are superficial muscles and muscles that are located underneath, known as deep muscles. The table shown will highlight some of the prominent muscles of the face, their locations, and actions.

Muscle Name Location Action
Frontalis over the frontal bone, on the forehead raises the eyebrows
Temporalis over the temporalis bone, on the side of the head aids in chewing
Orbicularis Oculi encircles the eyes controls blinking, squinting
Zygomaticus Major and Minor from the mouth to the zygomatic bone draws the lips up and to the sides
Orbicularis Oris encircles the mouth movements of the lips such as puckering, pouting, whistling
Buccinator lies in the space between the mandible and maxillae controls cheek movements when chewing, whistling, or blowing
Masseter runs between the zygomatic bone and mandible jaw movements for chewing

This image shows some of the major muscles of the face and neck.

Image of face and neck muscles from a side view.

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  • 0:07 Muscles of the Face
  • 2:15 Muscles of the Neck
  • 3:48 Muscles of the Back
  • 6:39 Lesson Summary
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What Muscles Are in the Neck?

Some of the muscles of the neck also have a role in the movements of the head and face. There are over 20 muscles found in the neck region. When studying the anatomy of the neck, it is best to work through them in groups by location: anterior, lateral, and posterior. The table shown will highlight some of the muscles of the neck.

Anterior Neck Muscles Origin/Insertion Action
Platysma skin below the clavicle to the mandible and skin around and below the mouth frowning expression
Sternocleidomastoid clavicle and sternum to the mastoid process rotates, flexes, and laterally flexes the neck
Lateral Neck Muscles Origin/Insertion Action
Scalenes transverse processes of cervical vertebrae to first rib lateral flexion of the neck
Posterior Neck Muscles Origin/Insertion Action
Trapezius (Superficial) from the base of the occipital bone to the clavicle and down to T12 vertebrae extends the neck
Splenius Capitis (deep) lateral occipital bone and mastoid process to cervical vertebrae extends and laterally flexes the neck
Splenius Cervicis (deep) spinous processes of cervical vertebrae to transverse processes of thoracic vertebrae extends and laterally flexes the neck
Levator Scapulae (deep) transverse processes of cervical vertebrae to scapula raises the scapula and assists with lateral flexion of the neck

There are deep muscles in the anterior part of the neck that assist with swallowing and talking. The suprahyoid muscle group and infrahyoid muscle group are muscles that act on the hyoid bone and larynx. These muscles act to raise or lower the hyoid bone, which is a small u-shaped bone deep in the neck. This is important to aid in swallowing. Some of these deep muscle groups also act on the larynx, where the voice box is located.

How Many Muscles Are in the Back?

There are 40 muscles of the back that function to extend the vertebrae as well as rotate and laterally flex. Some of these muscles act on the arm or scapula, but they are located in the back. These muscles can be divided into axial and appendicular groups. Axial muscles will act only on the spine, whereas the appendicular muscles will act on the scapula and humerus.

The muscles in the back can also be divided into superficial, intermediate, and deep groups. The table shown will highlight some of the muscles found in the back.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many muscles are in the face and neck?

Because of the overlap of small muscles, the answer to this can vary. However, anatomists estimate that there are approximately 43 muscles in the face and 20 muscles in the neck.

What are the muscles in your face called?

The muscles of the face are specifically called craniofacial muscles. This is because some muscles are located on bones that form the cranium. For example, the frontalis and temporalis, and most of the facial muscles are on the facial bones of the skull.

How many muscles in the face does it take to smile?

The answer to this question varies. However, many anatomists and studies estimate that between 12 and 17 muscles are used to smile.

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