A quick way to work on scapular winging

Posted on December 4, 2013

(Last Updated On: April 1, 2016)

In Musings on scapular winging there was a comment exchange where I had trouble getting through to the person the importance not just of proper exercises, but not letting the scapula(e) wing during the day. If you let your scapula wing for 23 hours, 1 hour of exercise is unlikely to get the job done.

For some people, their shoulder blade wings when they move their arm. For others, it not only does this, but it will be held in a winging position in stance.

Scapular winging in stance right shoulder

Which is what I was trying to get at. The person kept referencing the “appearance of winging” during the day and I kept saying “Stop winging during the day then.” Rather than harp on various exercises, harp on the thing you want to correct: The winging appearance even while standing.

Say a person has a right scapula which is held in a winging position. Rather than do a bunch of exercises in the hope your scapula stops winging, you could put your left hand under your right scapula,

Scapular winging corrected back 1

then “push” the bottom portion of the shoulder blade forward, and boom, you’re no longer winging.

Scapular winging corrected 2

Watch how the fingers go from being able to protrude under the scapula to then -when it’s pushed forward- being on top of the scapula. The idea here is if the fingers can get under the scapula, it’s probably winging. If the fingers can no longer get under the shoulder blade, you’re probably getting what we want. 

Slow motion:

This takes some practice. If you’re having trouble, you probably aren’t pushing your elbow forward enough.

Scapular winging corrected 1 with line


Scapular winging corrected arm 2 with line

Not winging.

Basically, what the person ends up doing is a small amount of arm flexion -bringing their arm forward and up- with some emphasis on keeping the scapula pushed forward. This is what I emphasized exercise wise in my long scapular winging post i.e. the need for arm flexion and overhead exercises. NOT pulling and arm extension exercises.

The great thing about this is you can periodically check yourself throughout the day. Simply move your opposite hand under the afflicted scapula; can you get your fingers between your scap and ribcage? If so, you’re probably winging. The other great thing about this is you’re correcting your winging all day, rather than only while exercising. Hard to have a winging scapula during the day if you don’t let it wing during the day.

This doesn’t work with everyone. If the person is significantly overweight, or has issues with both shoulders, they may not be able to reach the opposite arm behind the back. Or, if the person has issues with both shoulders winging, then reaching one arm behind the back may help the other shoulder not wing, while simultaneously cause the reaching shoulder to wing.

You can see this a bit in the videos. The left hand is providing feedback to help prevent winging in the right shoulder, yet the position the left arm is in causes a propensity for winging on the left side. If only one side is giving issues you can probably get away with this, at least for a while. For example, right shoulder hurts but left doesn’t. So, you allow the left arm to go into a less than ideal position at times to help alleviate the right shoulder pain.

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Posted in: Pain, Shoulder Pain