Winged Scapula

Winged Scapula is a rare, painful condition that occurs when the shoulder blade sticks out instead of lying flat and close against the back of the ribcage.

What You Need To Know About a Winged Scapula

What is a Winged Scapula?

The scapula, or shoulder blade, is the largest bone of the shoulder and has a complex set of muscles attached to it. When functioning properly, the scapula and surrounding muscles stabilize the arm and allow it to move freely.

A winged scapula occurs when these muscles weaken and fail to hold the scapula close against the back of the rib cage. This condition results in the scapula sticking outwards and upwards, causing the shoulder blade to resemble a wing.

Winged scapula symptoms can be painful and debilitating. Get moving again by scheduling an appointment with a Resurgens Orthopaedics shoulder physician.

What Causes a Winged Scapula?

A winged scapula is caused by a weak muscle that is supposed to stabilize your shoulder blade. Usually, a direct injury of the muscle or the nerves around the shoulder blade can bring it on. While blunt trauma is the most common cause of winged scapula, it may also be caused by repetitive shoulder motion.

Since this condition affects the nerves, there are some non-traumatic injuries that can cause winged scapula. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Viral illnesses

  • Allergic reactions

  • Toxin exposure

  • Pre-existing medical conditions

Winged Scapula Symptoms

Winged scapula symptoms usually begin with overarching pain in the shoulder that is difficult to identify. Depending on the type of nerves or muscles involved, a winged scapula may be asymptomatic.

Some common symptoms of a winged scapula are:

  • Pain

  • Weakness and fatigue

  • Deformity of the shoulder

  • Muscle spasms

  • Instability of the shoulder

  • Limited range of motion

How is a Winged Scapula Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose a winged scapula, your Resurgens shoulder physician will first discuss with you your medical history, lifestyle, and how the condition began. Then they will perform a physical exam to assess your range of motion and level of pain. The exam is brief and causes only minor discomfort.

Your physician will then order diagnostic imaging such as x-rays or MRI scans to rule out other potential shoulder conditions. They may other do electrodiagnostic testing or an ultrasound to assess your neuromuscular condition. Then, they will talk to you about your treatment options and create a custom treatment plan to fit your needs.

Winged Scapula Treatment

There are several types of surgical and non-surgical winged scapula treatment. While most winged scapula cases can be treated with non-surgical methods, severe cases may require surgical intervention.

Non-Surgical Treatment

There are many non-surgical options for winged scapula treatment, such as:

  • Physical therapy

  • Anti-inflammatories to help manage pain

  • Immobilization with a brace or sling

  • RICE therapy

Surgical Treatment

Your doctor will only recommend winged scapula surgery if your injury isn't responding to non-surgical treatment methods. The surgery involves taking nerve or muscle tissue and grafting it to a different part of the body. They may also recommend static stabilization, where the scapula is attached to the ribs or vertebrae.

Every winged scapula case is different, so we customize a treatment plan for each patient. If you are experiencing debilitating pain in your shoulder, make an appointment with a Resurgens shoulder physician today.

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