Scapula (Shoulder Blade)

The scapula (shoulder blade) is one of three bones that make up your shoulder joint. It forms part of your shoulder’s socket and lets you move and use your shoulder. It’s connected to more than a dozen muscles, tendons and ligaments.


The scapula is your shoulder blade.
The scapula (shoulder blade) is one of three bones that forms your shoulder joint.

What is the scapula?

The scapula is a bone in your shoulder. People more commonly call it the shoulder blade.

The scapula is one of three bones that forms your shoulder joint. It connects your clavicle (collarbone) to your humerus (upper arm bone).

Visit a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing shoulder pain, especially if your shoulder hurts after a fall or sports injury. Shoulder blade injuries are usually rare, but anything that damages or irritates your shoulder can affect them, too.


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What does the scapula do?

The scapula has several important functions:

  • Connecting your humerus to your clavicle: It joins your arm to your trunk (the center of your body).
  • Forming part of your shoulder joint: It makes up the back part of the socket that your humerus fits into to make your shoulder (the posterior shoulder girdle).
  • Moving your shoulder: The scapula is connected to 17 muscles, 12 tendons, six ligaments and two nerves. These connections let your shoulder move in six directions — more directions than any other joint in your body.
  • Protecting your chest: Your scapula is like a built-in shield for your chest. Even though it doesn’t directly protect any organs, it’s still a strong, firm bone that absorbs contact.


Where is the shoulder blade located?

Your shoulder blade is part of your axial skeleton (the bones in the center of your body). You have two shoulder blades (scapulae, the plural of scapula), one on each side of your chest. They’re behind your clavicles near your back.


What is the anatomy of the scapula?

The scapula’s flat, triangular shape is why people call it the shoulder blade. Even though it’s one bone, the scapula has three surfaces:

  • Costal (anterior) surface.
  • Lateral surface.
  • Posterior (inferior) surface.

Costal (anterior) surface

The scapula’s costal surface is the front — the side that faces your ribcage. The main part of the costal surface forms a slightly indented cup (the subscapular fossa) that supports one of your rotator cuff muscles. A small, hooked bump just under your clavicle (the coracoid process) anchors three muscles.

Lateral surface

The scapula’s lateral surface is its outside edge that points toward your humerus. It includes the:

  • Glenoid fossa: An indention that makes up the back of your shoulder socket.
  • Superglenoid tubercle: Where your biceps muscle attaches.
  • Infraglenoid tubercle: Where your triceps muscle attaches.

Posterior (inferior) surface

The posterior (inferior) surface of the scapula is the rear part that faces your back. It includes the:

  • Spine (apex): A slightly pointed tip that forms the top of your shoulder blade.
  • Acromion: Part of the spine that moves with your clavicle when you move your shoulder.
  • Supraspinous fossa: The area directly above the spine where muscles attach. It has a slightly rounded shape.
  • Infraspinous fossa: The area directly below the spine where muscles attach. It’s bigger than the supraspinous fossa and has a slightly indented shape.

Conditions and Disorders

What are common shoulder blade injuries or conditions?

Shoulder injuries are common. That’s because it has so many complex parts and you use it almost constantly throughout your daily routine and activities. It’s rare to hurt your scapula on its own, but shoulder injuries can damage it, including:

Shoulder fractures (broken shoulders) can include fracturing your shoulder blade, but it’s very rare. The scapula is usually only broken during severe traumas like car accidents or falls off a ladder.

Health conditions that affect your shoulder (including your scapula) include:

What are injured shoulder blade symptoms?

It’s rare to injure or damage your shoulder blade without hurting other parts of your shoulder. The most common signs of a shoulder injury usually include:

  • Shoulder pain.
  • Swelling.
  • A decreased range of motion (how far or in how many directions you can move your shoulder).
  • Stiffness.
  • Bruising or discoloration.

Scapula tests

A healthcare provider might use a few types of diagnostic or imaging tests to take pictures of your scapula and the area around it, including:


What are common shoulder blade treatments?

Which treatments you’ll need depend on which injury or health condition you have.

Some treatments you might need include:

  • Immobilization (wearing a cast, brace or sling).
  • Resting your shoulder or avoiding the activity that caused an injury.
  • Physical therapy (especially after a shoulder injury).
  • Shoulder surgery.


How can I keep my scapula healthy?

Eating nutritious foods and getting plenty of physical activity are usually all you’ll need to do to keep your shoulder blades healthy.

Follow these general safety tips to reduce your risk of an injury:

  • Always wear your seatbelt.
  • Wear the right protective equipment for all activities and sports.
  • Make sure your home and workspace are free of clutter that could trip you or others.
  • Always use the proper tools or equipment at home to reach things. Never stand on chairs, tables or countertops.
  • Use a cane or walker if you have difficulty walking or have an increased risk of falls.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

You might only think about them when you’re doing a big, satisfying stretch first thing in the morning, but your shoulder blades are important bones that you use almost constantly. They support and move your shoulders and hold lots of muscles and other tissue in place.

Usually, your shoulder blades will function without needing special checkups or care. But don’t ignore shoulder pain, especially if it lasts for more than a week. Visit a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing pain, stiffness or other symptoms that make it hard to do all your usual activities.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 02/07/2024.

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