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Scapular Stabilizers – An Often Neglected Group of Muscles

What are the scapular stabilizers?

 

These are the muscles that surround the scapula (shoulder blade) and, along with the rotator cuff, are crucial in maintaining normal function and biomechanics of the shoulder joint.

 

The muscle that make up the scapular stabilizers group are the:

serratus anterior, upper/middle/lower trapezius, and levator scapula.

 

These muscles work synergistically with the rotator cuff and deltoid muscles to upwardly or downwardly rotate the scapula while the shoulder joint/arm is moving overhead, behind the back or reaching away from your trunk.

Take, for example, a baseball pitcher or competitive swimmer; Their shoulders rotate hundreds to thousands of times during a season and preseason.  This can take quite a toll on their shoulders if they are not properly trained.

 

The scapular stabilizers provide strength, stability and prevent impingement.

 

Impingement is simply when the shoulder joint or glenohumeral joint hits the top of the scapula (acromium) causing pain, inflammation and, if left untreated, muscle tears.

 

Many of the patients that come into Paspa Physical Therapy with shoulder pain often have weak and under-developed scapular stabilizers. Clients work-out the biceps, triceps, pectorals, and deltoid, but forget the look behind their backs. The scapular stabilizers are there and need to be exercised! Otherwise pain and dysfunction are at risk.

 

You will find that training the scapular stabilizers will lead to improved performance and a healthier pain-free shoulder joint. 

 

There are many exercises that we prescribe at Paspa to strengthen the scapular stabilizers.  Below are a few of the basic exercises that we call the Y, T, I and W exercises.

 

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