Shoulder Bones

The shoulder plays a crucial role in almost all arm movements and is considered one of the major joints in the human body. While commonly known as the shoulder joint, it is actually a complex framework formed by a combination of multiple bones, joints, and muscles. Together, these components facilitate an array of shoulder movements, including raising the hands, reaching behind the back, and throwing objects.

Shoulder Bone Names and Basic Anatomy

Three bones contribute to the construction of the shoulder: 

Shoulder Bones
  1. Scapula (shoulder blade): This large, flat bone located on the upper back serves as the attachment site for various muscles such as the trapezius, pectoralis major, and deltoid. It also forms the connection between the other two bones in the shoulder region and aids in keeping the humorous in place.
  2. Clavicle (collarbone): Acting as the link between the arm and chest, this slender, elongated bone, in conjunction with the scapula, creates the pectoral girdle that connects the appendicular and axial skeletons.
  3. Humerus (upper arm bone): This single bone in the upper arm acts as the connection between the shoulder and the elbow. The proximal part of the humerus, known as the head, serves as the ball in the largest ball and socket joint of the shoulder.

Key Bony Landmarks

Several prominent and structurally significant landmarks are present in the extensive bony structure of the shoulder, with the most notable ones all part of the scapula:

  • Acromion: An elongated flat projection off the scapula, pointing towards the front of the body. It marks the top of the shoulder, articulating with the clavicle and contributing to the shoulder’s square shape.
  • Coracoid Process: This thick, hook-like elongation protrudes towards the front and serves as a vital point of attachment for numerous muscles and ligaments supporting the clavicle and humerus, enabling the shoulder joint and upper arm to function effectively.
  • Glenoid Cavity: A shallow cavity on the lateral side of the scapula, it serves as the socket for the ball and socket shoulder joint. The cartilaginous structure called the labrum rims the cavity, creating a ‘cup’ to securely hold the humeral head.

Articulations and Joints

The human shoulder comprises primarily two joints:

  • Glenohumeral Joint: This major ball and socket joint connects the head of the humerus with the shoulder socket or glenoid cavity of the scapula, enabling circular arm movements.
  • Acromioclavicular Joint: Formed at the juncture of the clavicle and the acromion of the scapula, this is the second most important joint in the shoulder. Also known as the AC joint, it is a gliding synovial joint allowing varied movements of the clavicle to follow the motion of the glenohumeral joint.

Two minor joints also contribute to the formation and functioning of the shoulder: 

  • Sternoclavicular Joint: This joint connects the clavicle to the sternum in the axial skeleton. Another gliding synovial joint, it facilitates movements like moving the shoulders forward, backward, and upward or reaching behind the back.
  • Scapulothoracic Joint: Found where the scapula contacts and glides along the rib cage towards the back of the body, it allows the scapula to move in tandem with various upper arm movements.

Within this region, the rotator cuff is another critical structure, encompassing multiple muscles and tendons that converge at the head of the humerus to maintain stability and enable a wide range of arm movements.


    1. Bones & Joints of the Shoulder – 
    2. Anatomy 101: Shoulder Bones –
    3. Shoulder Anatomy –
    4. The Anatomy of the Shoulder –
    5. Shoulder Human Anatomy: Image, Functions, Parts, and More –
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