Ok, internet: Dr. Cranquis has decided that it’s time for everyone to learn How to Find and Identify Your Xiphoid Process for What It Truly Is — in the hopes that this will prevent any more patients from coming in to see me because they have a “lump in their stomach”…
So, everyone follow along. This won’t take long.
- Get nekkid. (NOTE: This step is not actually necessary, but I like to imagine that somewhere, a gullible over-tired pre-med student started to strip off his clothes in the middle of a school computer lab…)
- Lay down on a flat surface, face up, hips and knees bent so that your feet are also flat on the floor/bed/counter-top/morgue table.
- If you are ticklish, get up from said surface, go pee, and come back.
- Use both hands to grasp the edge of your ribcage, where it meets your abdomen (The epigastrium, to be precise).
- Slide both hands towards the center of your body until they meet in a little “notch”. (NOTE: If your hands met in a little crotch instead of a little notch, you’re doing it wrong.)
- Inhale deeply, then exhale all the way out.
- As you finished exhaling, did you feel a small jagged pointy bony object poking into your fingertips, like the carapace-covered snout of an alien chestburster preparing to explode through your dermis? This is your xiphoid process.
- What is the xiphoid process? It’s the tip of your sternal bone, which points downward like a serrated dagger and helps keep your ribcage from flopping open. Contrary to popular belief (among my patients), the xiphoid process is NOT: A tumor, a hypertrophic pyloric muscle, a lipoma, an absorbed fetal twin, or the chicken bone you may have swallowed when you were three years old.
Fun Facts about the Xiphoid Process:
- Genetically, some gene-lines are predisposed to producing “bifid” (two-pronged) xiphoid processes, similar to bifid uvulae.
- In newborns and infants, the xiphoid is still not fully fused to the rest of the sternum, causing it to occasionally “protrude” visibly when the baby is straining to make poopies, leading parents to come rushing in to Dr. Cranquis’ clinic in a panic.*
- In adults, the xiphoid process is usually not very visible or palpable (unless you are a scrawny pile of bones like Dr. Cranquis), but sometimes an adult (or their bedroom-fun-times partner) will “discover” this worrisome lump, causing that person to (yes, you guessed it) come rushing in to Dr. Cranquis’ clinic in a panic.*
So, it is my hope that with this little Public Service Announcement now floating around the internet, I can cut back on the number of these ridiculous cases I see in my Urgent Care.
That is all. Return to your business.
And you, sir, the gullible pre-med student: please stop rubbing your naked belly and put your clothes back on.
* = True Stories, Kiddos!