Shoulder Girdles, Scapulaes, Oh My!

Shoulder girdle? Hurdle? WHAT?!Β 


When we talk about the ‘shoulder,’ most people will point to the right place and know where the shoulder is. What a lot of people don’t know, is that the shoulder or shoulder girdle, actually consists of 3 separate bones🦴🦴🦴: humerus (your arm), clavicle (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blade).πŸŒοΈβ€β™‚οΈβ›³πŸ₯Ž

In addition, theΒ ‘shoulder joint’ actually consists of 4 separate joints: the sternoclavicular (SC), acromioclavicular (AC), glenohumeral joint and scapulothoracic joint. In order for one joint to move and function properly, they all need to be able to do so. 🀳πŸ’ͺ



Β  Β The normal human body has two scapulae, which lay flat and float against your rib cage on each side of the rib cage making up the scapulothoracic joint. Being controlled by a number of surrounding muscles, they move up-down, side-side, tilt forward and back, and rotate both clockwise and counterclockwise with each arm movement. πŸ•žπŸ•’πŸ’ͺThat being said, they play a crucial role in not just shoulder movements, but also stability. Similarly to the joint function, if one of many muscles controlling the scapula are not functioning properly and are misfiring, such a thing could throw off the function of the whole shoulder girdle. πŸ€πŸ€Ύβ€β™€οΈβ›ΉοΈβ€β™€οΈ
A functioning shoulder girdle makes many things possible:




Out of the numerous muscles controlling the movement and stability of the scapula and the shoulder, some of the main ones are:Β 

Serratus anterior, which stabilizes the scapula during forward rotation of the arm and pulling the scapula forward and around on the rib cage. It moves the scapula in a way that it allows us to raise the arm above our heads. πŸ’ƒπŸ‹οΈβ€β™€οΈπŸ™Œ

Rhomboids (minor and major) stabilize the middle part of the scapula pulling it “backwards” towards the spine in movements such as ‘pulling our shoulders back’ when correcting our posture or performing activities such as rowing, swimming, or throwing overhead. πŸŠβ€β™‚οΈπŸš£β€β™€οΈπŸ™†β€β™€οΈ

Trapezius (upper/middle/lower) rotates the scapula upward and moves it up (upper), allowing us to shrug our shoulders. Middle fibers pull the scapula back towards the spine, and the upward rotation and pulling down of the scapula is done by the lower trapezius.πŸ€·β€β™€οΈπŸ™‹β€β™€οΈπŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ

Finally, the levator scapulae which connects the scapula to the neck part of the spine, moves the scapula up and rotates it downward in movements such as bringing your arms down from reaching overhead. πŸ•ΊπŸ’ͺ


Β Β Β  Usually, most of the overuse and shoulder girdle injuries can be traced to alterations in the function of the scapular stabilizing muscles. Weakness and misfiring of the scapulothoracic muscles potentially could lead to abnormal positioning of the scapula and therefore affect the movement and positioning of the other 3 joints of the shoulder girdle, possibly causing pain. πŸ˜“

Β We commonly hear of people being sent to phyπŸƒsical therapy for the ‘rotator cuff strengthening,’ which has been an obvious treatment for various pathologies. However, it is important to understand that a lot of rotator cuff issues are, in fact, stemming from the scapula.

Therefore, an effective exercise program for rehabilitation should include improving the strength and function of the muscles that control the position of the scapula. Strengthening of the same muscles can also be used as a preventative measure for any overhead athletes such as Baseball or Volleyball players and/or swimmers.Β  πŸ€½β€β™€οΈπŸŠβ€β™‚οΈπŸ

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Do you have pain in your shoulder area from sports or an old injury? Please call us to set up your free medical screening with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy in Chester(908-879-5700) or Bridgewater(908-203-5200).