Restore Function and Strength Lost from Winged Scapula

woman sitting on the edge of a poolWinged scapula is a common diagnosis affecting shoulder stability and should be treated as a significant functional problem. While shoulder blades typically sit flat against the back of the chest wall, scapular winging refers to a shoulder blade that is sticking out.

Dr. Nath, board-certified surgeon and founder of Texas Nerve & Paralysis Institute, has developed a method to restore strength and stability from winged scapula.  Contact our team today!

Winged Scapula Overview

Caused by long thoracic nerve palsy, winged scapula is more than just an aesthetic issue. The condition is closely linked to muscle imbalances and tendonitis around the shoulder joint, which can cause pain in the neck, shoulders and back.

Also associated with winged scapula is an inherent weakness in the muscles, making physical activities such as lifting, pushing and pulling very difficult. Resulting abnormalities may include adhesive capsulitis, subacromial impingement and brachial plexus radiculitis.

How Winged Scapula Develops

Unique anatomical features may result in injury to the long thoracic nerve, which in turn causes shoulder weakness and imbalance. The long thoracic nerve is small and fragile, and is exposed to several points of potential injury through the course of its origin in the C5 through C7 root to the serratus anterior muscle border.

Our studies have found that many people sustained these injuries while exercising, through direct compression by the middle scalene muscle. Winged scapula is more prevalent in athletes, such as swimmers, due to constant repetitive movements and weight-bearing.

However, repetitive movements around the house, such as shoveling, digging, gardening, or even the way you sleep can have the same effect. Certain trauma, illnesses, and surgeries may also cause damage to the long thoracic nerve and lead to winged scapula.

Diagnosis of Winged Scapula

Physical examination can determine the presence of winged scapula. The degree of winging can be measured by the angle of posterior projection of the inferior scapular border from the chest wall at the point of maximal winging. In addition, the examination will test basic shoulder rotation to look for dysfunction. Overhead arm movements often cause discomfort or instability, or the inability to lift the arm above 90 degrees (shoulder level.)

Surgical Treatment of Winged Scapula

Traditional non-surgical treatments of winged scapula consist of monitoring the condition and physical therapy which have been mostly unsuccessful in the long-term for eliminating related pain or improving function. Though the condition does sometimes resolve with time, surgical treatment has the potential to completely restore strength and stability.

Dr. Nath, a surgical specialist in peripheral nerve and Brachial Plexus surgery, has developed a decompression surgery for winged scapula. In our series of patients, eighteen of twenty-two (82%) decompressions and neurolyses resulted in significant improvement of scapular winging.

To learn more about how winged scapula treatment can restore function and relieve your pain, call our office at 713-592-9900.