What is the Coracoid Process?

The coracoid process is a small knob of bone at the top of the scapula, or shoulder blade. It extends outward from the top of the back of the shoulder blade and pokes out underneath the clavicle, or collarbone, on the front of the shoulder. When the word "process" is used to describe parts of bones, it means something that sticks out. The word coracoid comes from the Greek words korax, which means crow or raven, and eidos, which means form. It was given that name because the projecting end of the coracoid process looks a bit like the beak of a bird.

Shoulder injuries are fairly common, especially on the athletic field. Injuries like shoulder dislocations and fractures of the collarbone rarely involve the coracoid process itself. It can be fractured if the shoulder hits a solid object but the collision would have to involve a great deal of force. An example of the kind of force it would take would be a vehicle collision where the victim is thrown out of the vehicle and hits a wall or bridge abutment.

Pain in the shoulder is often a result of muscle problems. There are several sets of muscles that are involved in moving the shoulders and arms. The deltoid muscle, a thick muscle involved in lifting the arm, completely covers the coracoid process in the front of the shoulder.

Below that is the pectoralis minor muscle, which is the muscle used to move the shoulder forward in a shrug. It is attached to the coracoid process and extends to the third, fourth, and fifth ribs. Any of these muscles can be injured in a number of ways, including overuse, especially when it involves repetitious activities.

A common problem that causes shoulder pain is frozen shoulder, which occurs when the connective tissues that cover the glenohumeral joint, or shoulder joint, become thickened and tight. Shoulder pain can also be caused by a rotator cuff injury, which involves the muscles that attach the humerus, or arm bone, to the clavicle. These problems occur near the coracoid process but do not actually involve it.

Coracoid impingement syndrome is an unusual condition where the coracoid process sticks out so far that it rubs against the lesser tuberosity — the upper part of the arm where it fits into the shoulder joint. A person with coracoid impingement syndrome most likely will feel pain and tenderness in the area underneath the collarbone near the shoulder joint. They may hear a clicking noise when they move the shoulder forward. This syndrome usually is only diagnosed after other more-common causes of shoulder pain are ruled out. It typically can be cured by surgically removing the tip of the process.

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