Scapular Stabilisation Exercises

Scapular Stabilisation Exercises

Article by John Miller

What are your Shoulder Stabilisers?

Your scapular stabilisers help your shoulder’s rotator cuff muscles to stabilise the shoulder joint while in motion.

Your rotator cuff muscles arise from the scapula (shoulder blade) and attach to the head of the upper arm bone (humerus). If your shoulder blade is not dynamically stable, rotator cuff tendinopathy or impingement may occur.

Strengthening the muscles that support the scapula is important. The exercises that focus on these muscle groups are known as scapular stabilisation exercises.

The most important scapular stabilising muscles that tend to weaken include:

  • trapezius (upper, mid and lower fibres)
  • serratus anterior

Correct Your Scapular Posture

The correct position for the scapula (shoulder blade) is back and rotated down. Essentially, this means maintaining a good ‘military posture’, with shoulders back and chest out.

A round-shouldered or hunched posture is to be avoided at all times.

To achieve the correct scapular position, you need to use your mid and lower trapezius muscles to retract the shoulder and pull the scapula down medially. However, it is also important not to dip the acromion, so your upper trapezius and serratus anterior muscle also plays an important scapular positioning role. Otherwise, you will be likely to suffer rotator cuff impingement or future rotator cuff tears.

When you perform any upper bodyweight training exercise, always get into the habit of starting with good upper body posture and pinching the shoulder blades together. You should feel that the scapula is a solid platform that keeps the shoulder correctly positioned while performing the exercise.

You might find that painful exercises will not be painful if you stabilise your scapula correctly. In effect, by using the scapular muscles, you can achieve better shoulder mechanics and avoid injury.

Correct scapular stability is difficult to learn and demands a great deal of practice and concentration. You first need to understand what the correct position is, and often this requires a physiotherapist to guide you. Then, during your training sessions, instruction and observation from a trainer can help you achieve and maintain the correct shoulder position.

How to Normalise Your Scapulo-Humeral Rhythm

Your physiotherapist is an expert in the assessment and correction of your scapulohumeral rhythm. Any deficiencies will be an important component of your rehabilitation.

Researchers have identified poor scapulohumeral rhythm as a major cause of rotator cuff impingement. Plus, they have identified scapular stabilisation exercises as a key ingredient for successful rehabilitation.

Your physiotherapist will be able to guide you in the appropriate exercises for your shoulder.

Can a Posture Brace Help?

Some patients benefit from the use of a passive or intuitive posture brace.

Common Shoulder Pain & Injury Conditions

Rotator Cuff

Adhesive Capsulitis

Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder Instability

Acromioclavicular Joint

Bone Injuries

Post-Operative Physiotherapy

Muscle Conditions

Systemic Conditions

Referred Pain

Shoulder Treatment

Researchers have discovered that managing your shoulder injury with physiotherapy is usually successful. Typically, you have two options: a non-operative or a surgical approach. Your condition will dictate which option is best for you at this time. Non-operative care is conservative rehabilitation.

If shoulder surgery is required, then your physiotherapist may undertake:

Pre-operative rehabilitation  - either trial a non-operative/conservative treatment approach or condition and prepare your shoulder and body for a surgical procedure.

Post-operative physiotherapy will safely regain your normal range of movement, strength and function.

PhysioWorks physiotherapists have a particular interest and an excellent working relationship with leading shoulder surgeons. Our physiotherapy team provide you with both conservative and post-operative shoulder rehabilitation options. We aim for you to attain the best possible outcome for your shoulder injury.

For specific information regarding your shoulder, please consult your trusted shoulder physiotherapist.

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