Acromion Process: Definition & Types

Acromion Process: Definition & Types
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  • 0:00 Defining Process
  • 0:43 Acromion Process
  • 2:25 Acromion & Coracoid Processes
  • 3:44 Muscle Attachment
  • 4:22 Acromion Processes For Flight
  • 5:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Taormina Lepore

Taormina has taught advanced high school biology, is a science museum educator, and has a Master's degree in museum paleontology.

What is the acromion process? How does it function in humans, and how does its structure vary in different animal taxa? In this lesson we'll explore acromion structure, function, articulation, and more.

Defining Process?

When we think of the word 'process', we're likely to think of the common definition: a series of actions taken to achieve something. However, in osteology, or the study of bones, a process is a projection that extends off of a larger mass of bone tissue. Bones in the human body, and bones in most vertebrates, have many such processes. These projections of bony tissue serve as attachments for muscles and provide articulation points among bones, or connections that allow for motion. When you think about it, the common definition and anatomical term aren't all that different. Processes can help our bodies move or take actions to accomplish many different things.

In this lesson we'll focus on the acromion process, a type of bony process, which articulates with the clavicle, or collar bone. Just how do processes articulate? Well, if you just shrugged your shoulders, you're closer to the answer than you think! Articulated bones are connected by tissue such as cartilage or ligaments. The articulation connection lets two bones move together, which is exactly how our acromion process and our clavicle work in tandem. The acromion process is the part of our shoulder blade, or scapula, that you can feel sticking up if you rub where the back of your shoulder meets your arm.

Gray

This image, from the famous Gray's Anatomy text, shows us the complex relationship shared by the bones of the shoulder. Here we're looking at the front, or ventral, side of the body, as if the ribs had been removed from view. However, when we look a bit closer, the connection between the acromion and the clavicle becomes much clearer. The articulation between the acromion process and the clavicle is visible at the top of the image. This image shows a left scapula.

Let's take a look at the acromion process on its own from the back, or dorsal, view of the left scapula.

The acromion process, as seen from the back or dorsal view of the scapula

See how the red colored portion sticks up nice and tall? That's the acromion process, and it folds over the shoulder to connect with the clavicle, or collar bone. The thin, long feature that attaches to the acromion is known as the scapular spine.

How can we remember the important details of this process? The word 'acromion' comes from the Greek word meaning 'tall' and references the way this process juts up from the thin and flat surface of the scapula.

The Acromion and the Coracoid Processes

The acromion process is attached to the scapular spine, and it works with the coracoid process of the scapula to form a solid and stable shoulder joint. Incidentally, the coracoid is named after the raven, or 'corvus', for the unusual beak-like shape of that process. Both the coracoid and the acromion work together, along with the associated muscles of the shoulder, to allow us to shrug our shoulders. Since the acromion process isn't attached firmly to the coracoid, the process gives our shoulders and arms a wide range of motion. The ligament that attaches the acromion process to the coracoid process is called the coracoacromial ligament.

The image helps to illustrate just where the coracoid process is in relation to the acromion process. Just like the red-and-gray acromion image, this is a left scapula. It's as if we took that image and flipped it over. Now we're looking at the same view as the Gray's Anatomy image.

The coracoid process of the left scapula

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