As mentioned in the previous blog post the shoulder blades or Scapula for their medical name, are a key component in movement of the shoulders and neck. They are a focal point for many vital muscles to move the entire upper back complex from your neck and shoulders to extension of the back and allowing control through each and every movement. Without them we would not have as much movement in the shoulders and we would have a much more laboured and hard time with moving at all.
How does the scapula allow for increased movement?
The scapula is one of the few joint in the body that does NOT have a bony articulation (direct movement) with other joints. Such as the articulation between your leg and pelvis to form the hip joint or between your tibia and talus bone to form your ankle. This lack of articulation either with the Acromioclavicular joint (AC) or the rib cage allows for a huge amount of movement both in the scapula and the shoulder. As the Scapula glides across the rib cage it is held down by a suction mechanism much like any suction cups used on windows and bathrooms, by 2 muscles. Subscapularis and Serratus Anterior. This suction keeps the scapula close the rib cage allowing for greater and more efficient movements and the shoulder.
The AC joint is a joint used as an anchor and focal point to stabilise the humorous (upper arm) into the shoulder joint using ligaments and tendons. This function means there is no movement of the AC joint hence the scapula doesn’t articulate with it. With no bony articulations the muscles of your rotator cuff which attach onto your arm from your scapula are able to produce much more force and range of movement due to the scapula being able to move with their contractions.
If the Scapula is not allowed to move as freely as it should be able to whether its due to muscular weakness from your rhomboids or a lack of suction onto the rib cage (winged Scapula), this will lead to either a lack of movement at the shoulder and neck or pain during these movements.
This problem is easily treated with identification of what is causing the restricted mobility of the scapula such as muscle weakness, tightness, injury or impingement and the necessary rehab program and manual treatment. In most cases 2 or 3 simple exercises you can do at home or work will rectify the problem before it even starts.