Scapular Dyskinesis – What is it?

Published February 2nd, 2022 by Integrated Physical Therapy

When your shoulder blades aren’t stable, you may experience a shoulder disorder called scapular dyskinesis. It is characterized as losing a normal range of motion in your shoulder blades. In some cases, it is a condition of its own. Other times, scapular dyskinesis is a symptom of another health condition or injury.

Understanding Scapular Dyskinesis

Your shoulder blade is important for movement and range of motion in your shoulders. Also called the scapula, your shoulder blades provide stability to your rotator cuff. If you sustain an injury to your soft tissue, muscle, or bone around your shoulder, it may impact your shoulder blade too.

Scapular dyskinesis is easily identified because it causes your shoulder blades to stick out abnormally either during rest or activity. Scapular dyskinesis is also called winging because your shoulder blades stick out like wings on your back. Although the condition itself may not be painful, it can leave you at a greater risk of injury.

There are six factors that may contribute to scapular dyskinesis:

  1. Damage to your nerves
  2. Loss of flexibility
  3. Damage to your muscles
  4. Weakness in your core, hips, or legs
  5. Weak bones or bone fractures
  6. Damage to your joints

Your scapula has a normal rotation pattern of:

  • External Rotation
  • Posterior Tilt
  • Upward Rotation
  • Medial Translation

Damage may hinder a piece within this movement sequence. Playing sports increases your risk of the condition because more than 90% of unidirectional cases result from a dislocation injury. Sports with the highest likelihood of leading to scapular dyskinesis include:

  • Gymnastics
  • Swimming
  • Volleyball
  • Baseball, Primarily Pitchers

Symptoms of Scapular Dyskinesis

  • Pain or tenderness around your shoulder blade, especially when you raise your arms overhead or lift something heavy
  • Feeling a snap or pop that occurs with shoulder movement
  • Losing strength in your affected arm and shoulder
  • Changes in your posture, usually one side sagging down so that your shoulders appear asymmetrical
  • Shoulder blades sticking out and looking like wings
  • Feeling like your shoulder blade is out of place

Diagnosis of Scapular Dyskinesis

Scapular dyskinesis may not be obvious at first. You may feel pain or discomfort without obvious physical symptoms. Alternately, your shoulder blades may stick out with no accompanying pain or discomfort.

If you think something is wrong, talk to your therapist or doctor immediately. Allowing the condition to go on without treatment may leave you at greater risk for additional damage, including:

  • Weakness
  • Muscle Imbalance
  • Nerve Damage
  • Damage to Your Rotator Cuff or Surrounding Cartilage

If you notice that specific movement makes your pain or discomfort worse, be sure to share that. Include details about what happened when you first experienced a loss of motion or noticed a change in your shoulder blades.  

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