Lesser Occipital Nerve

Written by Nastasja Gugleta

Last updated July 10, 2024 • 6 Revisions •

The lesser occipital nerve is a nerve of the head and neck region.

It supplies sensation to skin of the upper neck, posterior scalp and external ear.

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Course

The lesser occipital nerve arises from the cervical plexus of the neck. It mainly contains fibres from the ventral division of the C2 spinal nerve.

It first passes anterior to the accessory nerve and then ascends along the posterior margin of the sternocleidomastoid.

At the base of the skull, the lesser occipital nerve pierces the deep fascia to run in the subcutaneous plane of the scalp.

It terminates by dividing into cutaneous branches which supply the upper neck, posterior scalp and external ear. These branches communicate with those of the greater auricular nerve and greater occipital nerve.

Fig 1
Course of the lesser occipital nerve. It ascends the posterior border of the sternocleidomastoid to reach the base of the skull.

Sensory Supply

The lesser occipital nerve supplies sensation to skin of the upper neck, posterior scalp and external ear.