PTD0316_ShoulderPainSometimes your shoulder may hurt when you reach up to a high shelf, or it may feel weak when you dig in the garden. Perhaps your upper back feels uncomfortable when it presses against the back of your chair. These can be symptoms of scapular winging, a condition distinguished by the unusual appearance of the shoulder blade protruding from the back like a wing rather than remaining flat against your trunk.

Scapular winging results from an injury to the long thoracic nerve that runs through the neck and shoulder. A shoulder injury or activities that repeatedly stress the shoulder, such as weightlifting, throwing a ball or shoveling, can also injure the thoracic nerve. This can lead to weakness in the muscle that controls the shoulder blade, resulting in instability and scapular winging. Pushing or lifting the arms overhead may be painful or difficult; fatigue is also a common complaint. Since the severity and appearance of the condition varies, you need an evaluation by your physician to confirm the diagnosis.

Sometimes the problem resolves on its own. In rare cases of extreme deformity or serious nerve injury, surgery may be required. But most cases of scapular winging can be effectively treated with a period of rest, mild pain relievers and a good physical therapy regimen.

Treatment should start with refraining from activities that aggravate your symptoms. Applying ice packs to sore areas can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help ease the pain, enabling you to engage in exercises we design for you. These may include stretching and strengthening exercises to improve flexibility, muscle strength and range of motion in the shoulder. Punching and pressing movements, performed under our guidance, are particularly helpful for scapular winging.

Once recovery is achieved, we will create an at-home exercise plan for you that includes a warm-up as well as exercises to maintain shoulder health and enable you to return to your normal activities.

Call us today. We can work with you to reduce your shoulder pain so you can soar again.

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