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Humerus Bone

Anatomy Lesson

Introduction

The humerus is the single bone that supports the upper arm region. It extends from the shoulder to the elbow and connects the scapula bone to the radius and the ulna, which support the lower arm.

The proximal (upper) end of the humerus consists of a rounded head, a narrow neck, and two bump-like elevations called tubercles.

At the distal (lower) end of the humerus are two knob-like protuberances (a condyle) that articulate with the heads of the radius and ulna. Above the condyle are two lateral extensions called epicondyles.

The central portion of the humerus consists of an elongated, cylindrical shaft connecting the bone’s two ends.

Humerus bone location

Humerus Bone Location

Anatomical Features

Proximal (Upper) End

At its proximal end is the head of the humerus. This is the large, round, smooth region that faces medially. The head articulates with the glenoid cavity of the scapula to form the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint.

An expanded bony area called the greater tubercle is on the lateral side of the proximal humerus. A smaller, lesser tubercle is found on the anterior aspect of the humerus. The tubercles are connected to the tubercular head by the anatomical neck. The greater and lesser tubercles are attachment sites for muscles that act across the shoulder joint.

Passing between the greater and lesser tubercles is the intertubercular groove (sulcus). This narrow depression is also known as the bicipital groove because it provides passage for the biceps brachii muscle tendon. The proximal end of the humerus narrows to form the surgical neck, a common site of arm fractures.

Proximal End of the Right Humerus Bone

Anterior View

Humerus bone anterior view: proximal end

Posterior View

Humerus bone posterior view: proximal end

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Central Portion

The central portion of the humerus is referred to as the shaft or body. A roughened, V-shaped elevation called the deltoid tuberosity is on the mid-lateral side of the shaft. The name is applied to this structure because it is where the deltoid muscle attaches.

Central Portion of the Right Humerus Bone

Anterior View

Humerus bone anterior view: central region

Posterior View

Humerus bone posterior view: central region

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Distal (Lower) End

The smooth, rounded distal end of the humerus is referred to as the humeral condyle. It is divided into two surfaces that articulate with the ulna and radius bones of the forearm to form the elbow joint. The pulley-shaped trochlea (L. pulley) is on the medial side and articulates with the ulna bone. Immediately lateral to the trochlea is the capitulum (L. head), a knob-like structure located on the anterior surface of the distal humerus. The capitulum articulates with the radius bone of the forearm.

Just above these bony areas are two small depressions. These spaces accommodate the forearm bones when the elbow is fully bent (flexed). Superior to the trochlea is the coronoid fossa, which receives the coronoid process of the ulna, and above the capitulum is the radial fossa, which receives the head of the radius when the elbow is flexed. Similarly, the posterior humerus has the olecranon fossa, a larger depression that receives the olecranon process of the ulna when the forearm is fully extended.

Superior to (proximal) the humeral condyle are two prominent bony projections. On the medial side is the medial epicondyle, and on the lateral side is the much smaller lateral epicondyle. A roughened ridge of bone called the lateral supracondylar ridge is located above the lateral epicondyle. These areas are attachment points for muscles that act on the forearm, wrist, and hand. The powerful grasping muscles of the anterior forearm arise from the medial epicondyle, which is thus larger and more robust than the lateral epicondyle, giving rise to the weaker posterior forearm muscles.

Distal End of the Right Humerus Bone

Anterior View

Humerus bone anterior view: distal end

Posterior View

Humerus bone posterior view: distal end

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Anterior Humerus Review Quiz

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Posterior Humerus Review Quiz

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Terms of Use

Terms of Use

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Attributions

Cleveland Clinic – “Humerus.”

NIH: National Library of Medicine – “Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Humerus.”

OpenStax – “Bones of the Upper Limb” (Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology-2e/pages/1-introduction).