The xiphoid process functions as the site of attachment for several structures of the upper respiratory system, including the diaphragm, the rectus abdominis muscle and the transversus thoracis muscle. The cartilaginous projection may appear in several variations of shape depending on the genetics of the individual.
In some individuals, the process may be split into two segments. Alterations of this process do not have a negative consequence on the health of the individual. The xiphoid process attaches to three muscles that have several functions. The diaphragm is involved in respiration, and it separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. The rectus abdominal muscle serves to support the spinal cord during activity that involves physical exertion. It supports other organs in the abdominal region and the intestines. It also functions to support normal respiration. The transversus thoracis muscle lines portions of the abdominal cavity.
Xiphoidalgia or xiphodynia is a rare disorder involving the process. It involves inflammation or tenderness of the process. Some symptoms of the disease include nausea and pain that radiate to the back, neck and shoulder. Symptoms may worsen after performing certain physical activities, such as bending or twisting. Relief may occur with the use of analgesics and other treatments.