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Winged Scapula - A Body Builder's Woe: Causes, Signs And Treatment

The scapula is a triangular bone on both sides of the upper back region. It is a part of the shoulder girdle and is stabilized by 2 muscles, the trapezius and the serratus anterior.

The winged scapula is a pathological condition where the scapula's vertebral border (the part of the scapula facing the spine) shows an unusual prominence. It restricts movement and is painful.

Causes for a winged scapula:

1. Primary winged scapulae:

● Nerve injury due to compression, heavy load bearing, athletic activity, and overuse.
● Bony changes
● Alteration of the peri-scapular tissues

2. Secondary winged scapula:

● Glenohumeral condition - the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder girdle is the most mobile joint of the body. It experiences deterioration and inflammation, and can result in winging of the scapula.

● Subacromial conditions refer to the impingement of the region close to the acromion process of the scapula, which results in the scapular prominence.

These factors cause muscle weakness, which results in the winged scapula.

How are bodybuilders susceptible to winged scapula?

Bodybuilding is a sport and a recreational activity mixed. It is the intentional growth of the muscles through resistance training and nutrition.

Despite producing aesthetically pleasing results, the strict training, diet, and postural changes are not without risk. It makes the body vulnerable to multiple musculoskeletal and nervous problems.

Besides bodybuilders, accidental weightlifting, gymnastics, and gym sessions can also result in the winged scapula.

Signs of a winged scapula:

1. Propped out scapula and shoulder deformity
2. Restricted hand movements
3. Pain
4. Muscle spasms
5. Fatigue

Treatment of a winged scapula:

1. Immobilization using a brace or a sling

2. Anti-inflammatories for pain management

3. Physical therapy:

a. Serratus anterior injury:

Acute stage: Moderate medication and range-of-motion (ROM) exercises are recommended, along with enough rest and a sling.

Intermediate stage: Complete range-of-motion exercises are advised because the muscle is starting to heal at this stage.

Late stage: After the muscle has fully recovered, strengthening or rehabilitation exercises are started.

b. Trapezius injury:

It is advised to take medication and wear a shoulder brace until the pain subsides. Rehabilitative exercises, chiropractic therapy, and nerve stimulation sessions follow.

4. Integrative medicine:

It is a novel idea that has amazing effects on chronic pain. It entails mastering both the body and the mind. Therapies like yoga, meditation, tai chi, and qigong can help with this.

5. Surgical treatment:

When the discomfort is persistent and the deformity worsens, it is recommended to correct it surgically.

Whom should you contact for medical care?

An orthopaedic surgeon will be your go-to doctor.


Full recovery is possible if wing scapula is discovered in its early stages. It can be avoided by engaging in well-planned and methodical athletic or exercise sessions.

Story first published: Saturday, August 13, 2022, 12:18 [IST]
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