What Is Winged Scapula
The shoulder region, comprised of the shoulder blade (scapulae) and the collarbone (clavicle), act as a supportive stabilizer for the chest muscles (pectorals and trapezius), muscles around the side of the ribcage (serratus anterior), and the upper arm (humerus). Connected below the scapula and down to the humerus are the biceps muscles. This specific grouping of muscles help with arm overhead, lifting, and pushing/pulling movements as well as flexion at the elbow. However, when they become weak or too tight, the scapula can become overstretched and pulled downward out of alignment within the shoulder girdle, creating protraction rather than lying flat against the chest wall. This misalignment of the shoulder positioning is called “winged scapula”.
How Does This Happen?
Do you sit hours in front of a computer screen with your arms in a fixed position on the keyboard or mouse regularly? Or do you flex your biceps when you stop by a mirror? These types of scenarios often cause tenderness and tightness in the biceps, which in turn, can pull the scapula out of the proper alignment because of the repetitive wear and tear that poor posture and overtraining/overuse can put on the body.
Because of the strong relationship between shoulder dysfunction and biceps issues (and vice versa), winged scapula is predominantly a residual effect of other movement distortions and prior medical issues, such as direct shoulder traumas, overuse injuries, and neuromuscular imbalances.
Signs of Winged Scapula
- Shoulder weakness
- Sharp pain or tenderness down the front of the shoulder/the upper arm, especially with overhead and lifting movements
- Occasional popping sound or release from the shoulder
- Protracted chest movement (internally rotated and forward)
- Decreased range of motion of the shoulder blade due to tightness and postural distortion
How Do We Fix It?
Due to how having a “winged scapula” reinforces a restricted movement in the front part of the body, it is important to focus on releasing the biceps muscles and restore the range of motion and movement in the back.
We would recommend the following exercises to correct the winged scapula movement distortion pattern:
- Lengthen – Biceps
- Activate – Serratus anterior
- Integrate – Wall slides
- Strengthen – Straight arm band pull down