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The Importance of Scapular Stability

By Emily Lindholm

Shoulder pain?  Let's talk about scapular stability.  Your shoulder does not act alone to move the arm.  The movement of the arm happens when the muscles of the shoulder and the scapulae move together.  Do you ever notice other people hiking their shoulders up to their ears when they're working at the desk, or working out in general?  This is common when we have weak shoulder muscles.  The muscles around the shoulder girdle help to support scapular stability, which helps us avoid shoulder pain and other issues down the road. 

The Function of the Scapulae

Another name given to the scapulae is the shoulder blade, which is what it is most commonly called.  The muscles around the scapulae play an important role in coordinating movement with the rotator cuff, allowing mobility in the shoulder.  The scapulae are attached to the ribcage by ligaments and muscles called scapulae stabilizers. Shoulder injuries can often be traced back to scapular instability.  Therefore, it is important to keep these scapular stabilizers strong.  

The scapular stabilizer muscles include:

  • Serratus anterior
  • Rhomboids
  • Levator scapulae
  • Trapezius muscles

These muscles serve the functions of throwing overhand, lifting overhead, and posture.  When these muscles are weak, the scapulae can seem a bit rogue.  You'll see the shoulders hike up to the ears often when the arms are lifted.  This can cause injury.  The scapulae act as an anchor that protects the shoulders and works to control movement.  The scapulae should move with the arm and shoulders, never to be glued won like concrete, but the movement should be supported and not all over the place.  

How to Practice Scapular Stability

To practice stabilizing the scapulae, it's great to start with a fitness band.  You can find these bands at different strengths.  Choose which one is best.  Stand with your feet a little bit wider than hip-width apart.  Hold the band open wide in front of your chest, a little bit wider than shoulder distance.  Engage your abdominals.  Think of pulling the abdominals up and in.  Lift the band up over your head, and at the same time, think of drawing the muscles in your mid and upper back down towards your hips.  Pretend you are growing taller, your head and neck lengthening in the opposite direction of your shoulders.  

Bring the band back down by widening the band as you bring it back in front of your chest.  You'll feel the tension here, and still think of drawing the shoulder and upper back muscles down.  Repeat this 8-12 times.  

This is a great exercise to get you started, but there are many other ways to build shoulder strength.  it is also recommended to get some chiropractic care if you are already experiencing any shoulder pain or tension.  

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Arlington, Tex.  

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