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  • Writer's pictureAJ Kirkpatrick, PT, DPT

Understanding Scapular Dyskinesia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Let's dive into the intricacies of scapular dyskinesia, a condition that affects the movement and positioning of the shoulder blade or scapula. Whether you're a seasoned athlete, an office worker, or someone in between, understanding scapular dyskinesia is crucial for maintaining optimal shoulder health and functionality. Let's explore what it is, its causes, symptoms, and most importantly, how physical therapy can help alleviate its effects.


What is Scapular Dyskinesia?


Scapular dyskinesia, also known as abnormal scapular movement, refers to the impaired coordination and control of the scapula during shoulder movements. Normally, the scapula glides smoothly along the rib cage, facilitating the full range of motion of the shoulder joint. However, in individuals with scapular dyskinesia, this movement pattern is disrupted, leading to various functional limitations and potential pain.


Causes of Scapular Dyskinesia:


Scapular dyskinesia can arise from a variety of factors, including:

  1. Muscle Weakness or Imbalance: Weakness or imbalance in the muscles surrounding the shoulder blade, such as the serratus anterior, trapezius, and rhomboids, can contribute to abnormal scapular movement.

  2. Poor Posture: Prolonged periods of poor posture, such as slouching or rounded shoulders, can affect the alignment and function of the scapula.

  3. Overuse or Repetitive Movements: Activities that involve repetitive overhead movements, such as throwing, swimming, or lifting weights, can lead to muscle fatigue and altered scapular mechanics.

  4. Trauma or Injury: Direct trauma to the shoulder or upper back, such as fractures or dislocations, can disrupt normal scapular function.

  5. Nerve Dysfunction: Conditions affecting the nerves that innervate the muscles around the shoulder blade, such as thoracic outlet syndrome or nerve impingement, can result in scapular dyskinesia.

Symptoms of Scapular Dyskinesia:


Recognizing the signs and symptoms of scapular dyskinesia is essential for early intervention and management. Common symptoms include:

  1. Shoulder Pain: Dull, achy pain in the shoulder region, especially during overhead activities or reaching.

  2. Limited Range of Motion: Difficulty fully raising the arm overhead or reaching behind the back.

  3. Shoulder Instability: Feeling of shoulder instability or "looseness," particularly during dynamic movements.

  4. Muscle Fatigue: Quick onset of muscle fatigue or weakness with repetitive shoulder movements.

  5. Audible Clicking or Popping: Audible clicking, popping, or grinding sensations in the shoulder joint during movement.

Treatment of Scapular Dyskinesia:


Physical therapy plays a central role in the management of scapular dyskinesia. A comprehensive treatment plan may include:

  1. Therapeutic Exercises: Targeted strengthening exercises to address muscle weaknesses or imbalances, focusing on the serratus anterior, lower trapezius, and rhomboids.

  2. Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques, such as soft tissue mobilization or joint mobilization, to improve scapular mobility and alignment.

  3. Postural Correction: Education and exercises to promote proper posture and alignment of the shoulder blade.

  4. Neuromuscular Retraining: Specific drills and activities to enhance neuromuscular control and coordination of scapular movement.

  5. Activity Modification: Guidance on modifying daily activities or sports techniques to reduce strain on the shoulder and promote optimal movement patterns.


Scapular dyskinesia can significantly impact shoulder function and quality of life, but with proper intervention, its effects can be effectively managed. If you're experiencing symptoms of scapular dyskinesia, don't hesitate to reach out to a qualified physical therapist for evaluation and personalized treatment. Remember, early recognition and intervention are key to achieving optimal shoulder health and function. Stay proactive, stay informed, and keep moving forward on your journey to recovery!


If you're near the Mission Viejo area and think you, or someone you know, might benefit from physical therapy, or to get any questions answered, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a free consultation!

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