A study was carried out in 19 anaesthetized rats to determine if the electromyographic (EMG) activity of jaw and neck muscles could be influenced by injection of the inflammatory irritant mustard oil into deep paraspinal tissues surrounding the C1-3 vertebrae. The EMG activity was recorded ipsilaterally in the digastric, masseter and trapezius muscles and bilaterally in deep neck muscles (rectus capitis posterior). In comparison with control (vehicle) injections, mustard oil (20 μl, 20%) injected into the deep paraspinal tissues induced significant increases in EMG activity in the neck muscles in all the animals and in the jaw muscles in the majority of the animals; the effects of mustard oil were more prominent in the former. The EMG response evoked by mustard oil injection was frequently reflected in two phases of enhanced activity. The early phase of the increase in EMG activity was usually initiated immediately following mustard oil injection (mean latency: 20.4 ± 17.7 sec) and lasted 1.6 ± 1.1 min. The second phase occurred 11.3 ± 7.6 min later and lasted 11.0 ± 8.1 min. Evans Blue extravasation was apparent in the deep paraspinal tissues surrounding the C1-3 vertebrae after mustard oil injection, and histological examination showed that mustard oil injection induced an inflammatory reaction in the rectus capitis posterior muscle. These results document that injection of the inflammatory irritant mustard oil into deep paraspinal tissues results in a sustained and reversible activation of both jaw and neck muscles. Such effects may be related to the reported clinical occurrence of increased muscle activity associated with trauma to deep tissues.