While it may sound like the lead villain in a children’s fantasy movie, a winged scapula is no laughing matter. It’s a serious medical condition that causes patients great pain. A winged scapula is aptly named – in this condition the shoulder blade protrudes out from the back forming a ‘wing’ like shape, instead of lying flat against the rear of the chest wall. In rare conditions, it can potentially lead to limited function in the upper extremities and affect a person’s abilities to lift, push and pull heavy objects. In some cases, this can dramatically affect the quality of life, as changing clothes or bathing may be difficult.
What causes a winged scapula?
What’s particularly irritating about this condition is that it’s not actually an injury but rather the effect that another injury is having on the patient. Often, a winged scapula is connected with damage or injury to the long thoracic nerve of the shoulder. If the long thoracic nerve happens to be damaged by the blunt trauma of the shoulder, for instance, this can cause paralysis of the serratus anterior muscle and wing of the scapula or shoulder blade.
In addition to a review of your medical history and a detailed exam, your medical team may perform projection radiography of the neck, chest and shoulder areas to rule out any unique genetic abnormalities, tumors or other intervertebral disorders.
Initial treatment and care
If you believe you’re suffering from a winged scapula, it’s recommended that you seek professional medical advice. Initial pain management treatment can include applying ice or cold therapy (never apply ice directly on the skin) as that may help reduce the shoulder blade plain. You will need assistance as the location of the scapula doesn’t make applying treatment easy.
Physical or massage therapy are often recommended as an effective initial approach to relax the damaged muscles. This therapy can help rebuild and strengthen the muscles around the scapula. Should physical therapy not prove effective, there are surgical options to correct this condition, such as fixation of the scapula to the rib cage.
Have questions about winged scapula and your options?
If you or a loved one believe you may be suffering from winged scapula, Coastal Orthopedics Sports Medicine & Pain Management is here for you. Our spine and pain management specialists are committed to helping you find the best way to treat your symptoms and manage your pain in an effective, caring and professional manner. Call us today at (941)792-1404.