The Scapula Bone

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Source: OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

The scapula is also part of the pectoral girdle and thus plays an important role in anchoring the upper limb to the body. The scapula is located on the posterior side of the shoulder. It is surrounded by muscles on both its anterior (deep) and posterior (superficial) sides, and thus does not articulate with the ribs of the thoracic cage.

The scapula has several important landmarks. The three margins or borders of the scapula, named for their positions within the body, are the superior border of the scapula, the medial border of the scapula, and the lateral border of the scapula. The suprascapular notch is located lateral to the midpoint of the superior border. The corners of the triangular scapula, at either end of the medial border, are the superior angle of the scapula, located between the medial and superior borders, and the inferior angle of the scapula, located between the medial and lateral borders. The inferior angle is the most inferior portion of the scapula, and is particularly important because it serves as the attachment point for several powerful muscles involved in shoulder and upper limb movements. The remaining corner of the scapula, between the superior and lateral borders, is the location of the glenoid cavity (glenoid fossa). This shallow depression articulates with the humerus bone of the arm to form the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint). The small bony bumps located immediately above and below the glenoid cavity are the supraglenoid tubercle and the infraglenoid tubercle, respectively. These provide attachments for muscles of the arm.

The scapula also has two prominent projections. Toward the lateral end of the superior border, between the suprascapular notch and glenoid cavity, is the hook-like coracoid process (coracoid = “shaped like a crow’s beak”). This process projects anteriorly and curves laterally. At the shoulder, the coracoid process is located inferior to the lateral end of the clavicle. It is anchored to the clavicle by a strong ligament, and serves as the attachment site for muscles of the anterior chest and arm. On the posterior aspect, the spine of the scapula is a long and prominent ridge that runs across its upper portion. Extending laterally from the spine is a flattened and expanded region called the acromion or acromial process. The acromion forms the bony tip of the superior shoulder region and articulates with the lateral end of the clavicle, forming the acromioclavicular joint. Together, the clavicle, acromion, and spine of the scapula form a V-shaped bony line that provides for the attachment of neck and back muscles that act on the shoulder, as well as muscles that pass across the shoulder joint to act on the arm.

The scapula has three depressions, each of which is called a fossa (plural = fossae). Two of these are found on the posterior scapula, above and below the scapular spine. Superior to the spine is the narrow supraspinous fossa, and inferior to the spine is the broad infraspinous fossa. The anterior (deep) surface of the scapula forms the broad subscapular fossa. All of these fossae provide large surface areas for the attachment of muscles that cross the shoulder joint to act on the humerus.

The acromioclavicular joint transmits forces from the upper limb to the clavicle. The ligaments around this joint are relatively weak. A hard fall onto the elbow or outstretched hand can stretch or tear the acromioclavicular ligaments, resulting in a moderate injury to the joint. However, the primary support for the acromioclavicular joint comes from a very strong ligament called the coracoclavicular ligament. This connective tissue band anchors the coracoid process of the scapula to the inferior surface of the acromial end of the clavicle and thus provides important indirect support for the acromioclavicular joint. Following a strong blow to the lateral shoulder, such as when a hockey player is driven into the boards, a complete dislocation of the acromioclavicular joint can result. In this case, the acromion is thrust under the acromial end of the clavicle, resulting in ruptures of both the acromioclavicular and coracoclavicular ligaments. The scapula then separates from the clavicle, with the weight of the upper limb pulling the shoulder downward. This dislocation injury of the acromioclavicular joint is known as a “shoulder separation” and is common in contact sports such as hockey, football, or martial arts.


Betts, J. G., Young, K. A., Wise, J. A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D. H., … DeSaix, P. (n.d.). Anatomy and Physiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: