I have Wings on my back!

I have Wings on my back!

The appearance of having “wings” on your back might be a condition known as “winging of the scapula”, or the shoulder blade. It happens when the border of the scapula sticks outwards. How do I know if I have scapula winging? What can I do to treat this?

When we are at rest, the scapula should rest flatly on our ribs. Even when we move our shoulders, the scapula should not point outwards. A few simple tests to see if you have this condition is to:

  1. Ask someone to observe your scapula from the back. If the borders of the scapula is very visible, it may be winging.
  2. Perform a simple push-up against the wall. If we see the scapula jutting out, it may be winging.

What is the cause of scapula winging?

The main cause of scapula winging is the weakness of the serratus anterior muscle. It is a strong muscle over the border of the scapula that holds the scapula stable. When the muscle is weak, it loses its ability to hold the scapula, thus causing it to wing. When we have a winging scapula, we lose stability of the shoulder.

Why is this important to me?

Shoulder instability will impede many daily functions, such as lifting your arm above your head. Without shoulder stability, we lose control of our arm when moving, and this can cause muscle injury (such as rotator cuff injury) or shoulder impingement. If this is not treated, it can lead to pain in the shoulder.

Besides that, a weakness of the serratus anterior muscle will cause the upper trapezius muscle to work harder as a compensation to keep the shoulder stable. This is one of the reasons for constant “shrugging” movements when doing shoulder exercises. When the upper trapezius has to overwork for too long, it will tighten up and become stiff, causing soreness in the upper shoulder and neck.

How do I improve this condition?

To improve scapula winging, one of the key muscles to train is the serratus anterior muscle. We can do shoulder blade push-ups and normal push-ups to strengthen the muscle. In the next post, we will talk about normal push-ups and shoulder blade push-ups. Stay tuned!

If you are unsure about your condition, do feel free to clarify with us. Our therapists can’t wait to help you live better!