By Christy Cael
[Functional Anatomy]

The platysma is the most superficial muscle of the anterior neck, and extends from the mandible and fascia of the face. Its origin is not bony; rather, it is attached to the fascia of the chest and the anterior shoulder girdle. This muscle is one of several mimetic muscles, or muscles responsible for facial expression. Each of these muscles is controlled by the facial nerve, with the platysma specifically controlled by the deep cervical portion.
The platysma is a flat, continuous sheet of muscle (generally termed a panniculus muscle). Panniculus muscles are found in many animals, and function to move areas of skin, a movement useful in shaking off flies, raising hair, and shivering. In humans, the platysma is a vestigial muscle made redundant by the broad range of the upper extremities, which allows the hand to reach nearly all parts of the body.
While the platysma is less functional in flicking flies, it is very active in creating specific human facial expressions. This muscle draws the lower lip downward and laterally while creating ridges or wrinkles in the skin of the neck and chest. When combined with different movements of the forehead, eyes, and nose, this action characterizes the facial expressions of stress or anger.
Prolonged periods of deep concentration or stress may create tension and pain in the platysma. This tension may be exacerbated by poor tissue mobility around the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid, as well as postural deviations like forward head posture or kyphosis. Improving posture in the head, neck, and shoulder girdle, as well as circulation and tissue mobility in the chest and anterior shoulder, may alleviate pain and tension in the platysma.
Clients who must emphasize or exaggerate facial expressions, like actors, performers, sign language interpreters, and teachers, may experience excessive tension in the platysma, as well as the other mimetic muscles. Include superficial friction techniques and myofascial release of these muscles for these clients in particular, or as part of treatment for neck issues, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, headaches, or as a nice finish for relaxation massage.

Palpating the Platysma
Positioning: client supine.
1. Sitting at the client’s head, locate the superficial flesh on the front of the neck with your fingertips.
2. Have the client draw the lower lip down and make a big frown.
3. Gently palpate the ridges formed between the mandible and chest by the platysma muscle.
4. Have the client lift the head to further ensure proper location.

Chin Lift
1. Stand or sit up straight.
2. Keep your neck elongated as you lift your chin and look upward.
3. Close your lips and relax, feeling a gentle stretch in the front of the neck.
4. Increase the stretch by stretching your bottom lip up over the top lip.
5. Lower your head, then repeat.

Christy Cael is a licensed massage therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. Her private practice focuses on injury treatment, biomechanical analysis, craniosacral therapy, and massage for clients with neurological issues. She is an instructor at The Bodymechanics School of Myotherapy & Massage in Olympia, Washington. She is also the author of Functional Anatomy: Musculoskeletal Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Palpation for Manual Therapists (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009). Contact her at

Editor’s note: The Client Homework element in Functional Anatomy is intended as a take-home resource for clients experiencing issues with the profiled muscle. The stretches identified in Functional Anatomy should not be performed within massage sessions or progressed by massage therapists, in order to comply with state laws and maintain scope of practice.