What is Scapular Winging?

An imbalance that will cause scapular winging can affect the shoulder joint in actions that involve flexing and abducting the arm and in time cause shoulder pain.

Scapular winging appears as a pair of “angel wings” on the back  of those affected by it and desemnates a condition, in which the medial and lower border of the scapula is raised.

Scapular winging can be caused by damage to a nerve :

  • the long thoracic nerve, which affects the serratus anterior
  • the dorsal scapular nerve, which affects the rhomboid muscles
  • the spinal accesory nerve, which affects the trapezius

Or, a more simple cause and easier to fix would simply be a muscular imbalance. In which the rhomboids, lower and middle trapezius and the serratus anterior are lenghtened, weakened or underactive. This is caused because they have not been used by our nervous system for a long time and are not recruited as much. We must relearn the central nervous system to recruit these muscles.

And the muscles on the opposite side as well as the levator sapulae and the upper trapezius are overactive, shortened and stronger. The pectoralis minor, the anterior part of the deltoid muscle are shortened and stronger that the previous muscles.This can be an issue in time and can cause shoulder pain.


First we need to stretch the shortened muscles to prevent shoulder pain by doing these stretches:


1.Pectoralis minor

2.Levator Scapulae and Upper Trapezius

3.Biceps Brachii stretch:


By stretching we lessen the tension in these muscle and lower their strength and also the sequence in which they are firing up when signalled by the central nervous system.

We must relearn our nervous system to use the opposite muscles and we can do that by using this exercise. You must consciously be trying to pull our scapulae down and together.

To activate your serratus anterior do this wall push-up progressing to a normal push-up. Always focus to move appart the scapulas as much as you can. The movement has to end nearly rounding your back (don’t round the back by flexing your spine forward).

And only later on we can use exercises to strengthen the serratus anterior and the rhomboids:

Serratus anterior exercise:

Middle, Lower trapezius and rhomoids exercise (use dumbells for better targeting of the rhomboids, by conciously trying to contract them) :

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Daniel H.

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