Lesser occipital nerve

The lesser occipital nerve or small occipital nerve is a cutaneous spinal nerve arising between the second and third cervical vertebrae, along with the greater occipital nerve. It innervates the scalp in the lateral area of the head posterior to the ear.

Lesser occipital nerve
Side of neck, showing chief surface markings. (Lesser occip. nerve labeled at center right.)
The nerves of the scalp, face, and side of neck. (Smaller occipital visible below and to the left of the ear.)
Fromcervical plexus (C2)
InnervatesCutaneous innervation of the posterior aspect of the auricle and mastoid region
Latinnervus occipitalis minor
Anatomical terms of neuroanatomy


The lesser occipital nerve is one of the four cutaneous branches of the cervical plexus. It arises from the lateral branch of the ventral ramus of the second cervical nerve, sometimes also from the third; it curves around and ascends along the posterior border of the Sternocleidomastoideus.

Near the cranium it perforates the deep fascia, and is continued upward along the side of the head behind the auricula, supplying the skin and communicating with the greater occipital, the great auricular, and the posterior auricular branch of the facial.

The smaller occipital varies in size, and is sometimes duplicated.

It gives off an auricular branch, which supplies the skin of the upper and back part of the auricula, communicating with the mastoid branch of the great auricular.

This branch is occasionally derived from the greater occipital nerve.

Clinical significance

Disorder in this nerve causes occipital neuralgia.

Additional images


This article incorporates text in the public domain from page 926 of the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy (1918)

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