A winged scapula or shoulder blade is caused by a weakness to the serratus anterior muscle which has the job of keeping the shoulder blade flush against the rib cage, as you can see in the picture above the shoulder blade is raising from the rib cage causing the winged effect.
Is this a serious problem?
Well that depends. A true winging scapula is due to a paralysis of the long thoracic nerve which is a more serious cause and may not be able to be corrected. However, the vast majority of people who say, or have been told they have a winged scapular, either have a weakness of the serratus anterior muscle itself or who have a co-ordination issue with the shoulder complex. This typically develops over time and usually affects office workers who end up slouching at the desk. If you are an active individual that requires good mobility and stable shoulders then it can cause problems, as the serratus anterior muscle is important for shoulder stability. However, if you are currently not super active then it may not cause you many problems to begin with, but overtime the muscle can begin to become irritated and develop what osteopaths call trigger points (irritable painful areas within the tissue), that can refer pain elsewhere in the body. As you can see in the images below. More on this in a later blog post.
Correcting this postural imbalance does require some time and effort as you need to learn how to control your scapula and strengthen the serratus anterior muscle. Below is a few exercises that will help you get started.
These exercises can be done as a gradual progression to begin the re-strengthening process and help reintegrate the serratus anterior with the shoulder complex and the whole body as a unit.
If you are experiencing shoulder or neck pain and would like to speak to someone about your problem you can contact me on 07500059064 alternatively you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope this helps
Cwmbran, Pontypool & Abergavenny Osteopath
Andy has been involved in the health & fitness industry for over 10 years, specialising in corrective exercise, injury prevention and rehabilitation of low back, neck and shoulder pain. He also has an interest in the use of Osteopathy for the management of headaches.