Winged Scapula Symptoms

​​If your physician has told you your shoulder pain is due to a winged scapula, you may be wondering exactly what that means.

This article will discuss the definition of a winged scapula, how this condition can occur, and, most importantly, how physical therapy exercises can help resolve this painful shoulder issue.

Of course, Cawley Physical Therapy is here to help when you need us! Call us today to make an appointment!

What Is a Winged Scapula? 

A winged scapula (shoulder blade) is a medical condition where a person’s shoulder blade abnormally protrudes from its regular position. When viewed from behind, a protruding shoulder blade looks somewhat similar to a bird’s wing, hence its name: winged scapula.

People with a winged scapula will exhibit symptoms such as shoulder pain and weakness and the inability to use the affected shoulder and arm for their normal activities. Without treatment, a person will eventually have difficulty performing even basic tasks such as shampooing their hair, changing their clothing, and other basic tasks involving lifting, pushing or pulling even minor objects.

How Does the Condition Occur? 

A winged scapula can occur from an injury to the shoulder area, such as a rotator cuff tear or another type of injury. Injuries can occur anywhere, from car crashes to your own workplace, so it pays to be vigilant about what’s happening around you.

A winged scapula can also stem from nerve damage or nerve impingement of the long thoracic nerve, which originates in the cervical (neck) region.

Other conditions such as weakness from extensive bed rest and bad posture can also lead to a winged scapula.

Treatment for a Winged Scapula

If your physician has diagnosed you with a winged scapula, they will likely write a prescription for you to participate in a series of physical therapy sessions.

In the initial assessment, a physical therapist will take the patient’s health history, determine the origin of the injury, and consider whether other medical issues such as cervical issues could contribute to the patient’s condition.

The physical therapist will then create a custom treatment plan for the patient, typically including initial treatments to reduce pain levels and eventually introducing stretches designed to increase range of motion throughout the shoulder area.

As treatment progresses, a physical therapist will introduce exercises designed to increase shoulder and arm strength and improve posture issues.

The Top 3 Exercises for a Winged Shoulder

As part of a treatment plan, a physical therapist will likely prescribe the following exercises that are exceptionally helpful in the healing process for a winged scapula.

External Rotation

In this exercise, the patient will stand with their arms hanging on either side. Next, they will lift both forearms to the front, bending their elbows to a 90-degree angle. The patient will then rotate only the lower part of their arms to each side from this stance. Their hands will point away from their waist. Keeping their elbows close to their waist, the patient will then rotate their forearm to the front, then back to each side for ten reps. The use of exercise bands with this exercise can also help in building muscle strength.

Scapular Retraction

This exercise requires a patient to stand or sit in a comfortable position (while also practicing good posture). The patient will then pinch their shoulder blades together as if they were trying to make their shoulder blades touch while also moving them in a slight downward motion. The downward motion helps prevent the patient from hunching their shoulders.

The patient should continue squeezing their shoulder blades together for 3 seconds. The entire process should be repeated for ten repetitions.


Depending upon the patient’s physical condition, a physical therapist will have a patient perform a series of traditional push-ups. They may also have some patients perform push-ups from an elevated surface such as a desk or have them perform wall push-ups. When a patient practices good form with their shoulders directly over their hands, push-ups can be an excellent exercise to help strengthen and stabilize the shoulder region.

Let Cawley Physical Therapy Treat Your Winged Scapula

If you or someone you know has a winged scapula, it’s important to receive proper treatment to avoid further degradation of the shoulder region.

For more information about how physical therapy can help heal this painful condition, please contact Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab at 570-208-2787. Our physical therapists will make a personalized plan that considers your physical condition and works for you.

Call us today to make an appointment!