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Understanding the Movements of the Scapula

Scapular movement is key to optimizing shoulder function and decreasing shoulder pain. The scapula moves in many different interesting ways to support shoulder function.




The #scapula is a funny bone. It is highly irregular in shape and does not move quite like the other bones in our body. As it moves, it glides along the rib cage forming what is called a physiologic joint. Additionally, it articulates with the clavicle and the humerus forming the shoulder complex.


The movement of the scapula and the humerus - arm bone - are coupled. This means that whenever you move your arm, your scapula should also move. Let's take a look at the scapula's primary movements and how it coordinates with the #humerus.


Scapular Movements


Protraction. During protraction, the scapula move away from the spine and toward the front of your body. Your shoulders should protract when you are reaching forward in space such as when you are reaching for the salt shaker across the dinner table.


Retraction. Retraction is the opposite of protraction. In retraction, your shoulder blade moves closer to the spine. This should happen when you are pulling something towards you like when you open a door or reach behind you.


Upward Rotation. The scapula upwardly rotates when you reach your arm up overhead. During this motion, the inferior angle of the scapula (see photo above) rotates up (superiorly) and to the side (laterally). At the top of your overhead motion, your scapula should be upwardly rotated about 55 degrees.


Downward Rotation. Downward rotation is the opposite of upward rotation. Your scapulae downwardly rotate when you bring your arms down from an overhead position or when you go to reach your hand into your back pocket. During this motion, the inferior angle of the scapula moves closer to the spine.


Elevation. In scapular elevation, the whole bone moves directly up (superiorly) toward your ears. You elevate your shoulders when you perform a shrugging motion or when you reach for something on a very high shelf.


Depression. When you depress your scapula, your move the whole bone inferiorly or away from your ear. You depress your shoulder blade when you reach for something down below you.


Other scapular motions: There are a few more small scapular motions that occur when you are moving your shoulder complex. They are internal and external rotation and anterior and posterior tipping. These small motions help to keep your humerus centered in its socket.


Having a hard time visualizing those movements? Check out the video below:



Where should a healthy shoulder sit?


A healthy scapula should be sit about 3 fingers-width away from the spine with a few degrees of upward rotation. In this resting position, you should not feel as if you are actively pulling your shoulders away from your ears. Additionally, the superior angle of your scapula should sit at about the level of your second thoracic vertebrae.

Now that we've discussed how the scapula should move, stay tuned for some common scapular movement errors seen in ballet.


#shouldermovement #scapularretraction #motionislotion #anatomyoftheshoulder #scpulohumeralrhythm #healthyshoulder #shoulderpain #shoulderrehab #physicaltherapyfordancers #PTforperformers


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