Winged Scapula

A winged scapula is a symptom of another condition, rather than an injury itself. It is where the shoulder blade protrudes out on the back, rather than laying flat against the back of the chest wall.

Winged scapula symptoms

ScapulaA winged scapular is usually fairly obvious as the scapular or shoulder blade protrudes outwards sticking out of the back. Patients can complain of shoulder blade pain with pressure on the scapular from a chair when sitting. If caused by an injury resulting in nerve damage, the patient may have limited shoulder elevation as well as shoulder blade pain.

What causes winged scapula?  

Serratus anterior muscleA winged scapula is a symptom of another condition, rather than an injury itself. It is where the shoulder blade protrudes out on the back, rather than laying flat against the back of the chest wall. It is quite a common dysfunction of the shoulder as it is also associated with poor posture. It is known as winged scapula as the medial (inner) border of the scapula can appear to be wing-like on the back.

A winged scapula is associated with damage or a contusion to the long thoracic nerve of the shoulder and / or weakness in the Serratus Anterior muscle. If the long thoracic nerve is damaged or bruised it can cause paralysis of the serratus anterior muscle and winging of the scapular or shoulder blade. Damage to the nerve can be caused by a contusion or blunt trauma of the shoulder, traction of the neck and can also sometimes follow a viral illness.

Winged scapula treatment

Punching exercise for serratus anteriorApplying ice or cold therapy may help reduce the shoulder blade pain although the back isn't the easiest place to apply a cold pack. Assistance will be required!

A full rehabilitation and strengthening program consisting of winged scapular exercises as well as a range of other exercises for the shoulder is important. The most important muscle to strengthen is the serratus anterior muscle which holds the shoulder blade in place. Exercises to strengthen the serratus anterior which is known as the punching muscle including punching type exercises.

Professional advice should be sought, particularly if the shoulder does not respond to strengthening exercises. Initial treatment is usually conservative but occasionally surgery may be performed if this fails and the condition is caused by nerve entrapment.