Shoulder Blade Winging
Do your shoulder blades wing?
Do you get pain in your shoulder or perhaps you have difficulty lifting your arms above your head?
The scapulae (or shoulder blades) are good indicators of the health of your shoulder since they are directly part of the socket joint of the shoulder. If you have a movement dysfunction in your shoulder blades then you can be assured of the fact that your shoulder itself will not operate properly.
The first thing you want to do is look at how your shoulder blades move as you raise your arms up overhead and straight out in front of you. Have somebody video you so you can watch for the flaws after the fact. Look for a slight head nod to either side, a slightly elevated shoulder on one side, or a protrusion of one or both shoulder blades as you raise or lower the arms back down. You might also see a bunching up of the shoulder blades as you raise up which could be an indicator of tight rhomboids.
The key is that when these muscles are tight, impingement of the long thoracic nerve can become more probable. When this happens, the muscles that it attaches to (the serratus anterior) can become weak and cause the scapular winging to occur. Here, no matter how much strength training and exercises you do for the serratus, you will not fix the problem until the tight muscles are stretched and the compression is relieved.
One of the most common reasons for shoulder blade winging is due to weakness, lack of control or reduced activation of the serratus anterior (SA) muscle - This is due to the lack of localised strength of SA during movements of the shoulder, particularly with pushing forward or upwards. One other reason that can contribute to this is muscle tightness in pec minor, levator scapulae and internal rotators of the shoulders.
Try these exercises out below to help improve this!
1. Wall Scapula glides - Beginner level exercise priming SA to protract the shoulder blades and then control retraction coming back.
2. Protracted Band Pull Aparts - Using the scapula to position the movement rather then the shoulders.
3. Forearm wall slides/climbs w/ foam roller + loop band - pressing into the foam roller creates more resistance against protraction, thus increasing SA activation. Add a loop band to challenge your shoulders.
4. Pec minor, levator scap and Shoulder internal rotation stretches - these are commonly tight muscles that can impact SA ability to move the shoulder blades correctly through full range.
Remember, the focus should be on quality reps and not quantity.
Aim to complete 20 sets of 1 rather than 1 set of 20. In time, you will see that you not only will fix your scapular winging dysfunction but will start realizing more pain free gains in your shoulders once again.
If you need further help with your shoulder blades in regards to scapulae winging or pain send us a message to book an appointment with our myotherapist today.