The shoulder blade is made up of three joints: the humerus (upper arm bone), the clavicle (collarbone) and the scapula (shoulder blade). The scapula is an amazing anatomical structure. It is suspended over the ribs between the spine and the arm by only two ligaments. The scapulothoracic joint is located where the shoulder blade glides along the chest wall (thorax).
Snapping Scapula Syndrome is a disorder in which scapulothoracic motion produces a snapping, grinding, thumping or popping sensation. A loud popping or cracking sound is heard when the arm is raised up overhead. The medical term for this sound is crepitus. The sound is made by some soft tissue rubbing between the scapula and the thoracic wall. The person with this problem may or may not experience pain with the movement and the popping sound.
Snapping Scapula Syndrome can occur when the tissues between the scapula and shoulder blade become thick due to inflammation. It can be also caused by problems in the soft tissues or bones of the scapula and chest wall. The inflammation is usually caused by repetitive movements. After years of movement, the repetitive motion eventually causes a wear pattern that results in the Snapping Scapula Syndrome.
A less common cause is the development of a benign tumor called osteochondroma. Scapular or rib fractures, bone spurs, nerve injuries with muscle wasting and weakness or other types of tumors have also been linked with the snapping syndrome.
Grinding, grafting or snapping may be heard or felt along the edge or undersurface of the scapula as it moves along the chest wall. Sometimes the joint pops or thumps during movement. Often, these sensations cause no pain.
Your doctor or physiotherapist will ask you questions about your medical history, to know if you have ever experienced any similar problems in the past. He will try to find out if you've previously injured your scapula, and if any of your activities require repetitive shoulder movements.
To check the alignment of the scapula, your doctor may also establish a physical exam. An X-ray image can show abnormalities in the bone, such as a rib or scapular fracture. If he suspects a bursitis, an MRI test may be used to locate the bursa and see how major the problem is.
For most patients, if their bursa is not damaged, Snapping Scapula Syndrome can be managed nonoperatively via treatment options such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections.
Physical therapy incorporates goals of rehabilitation on addressing postural issues, improving muscular strength, endurance and balance, and working on core strength. Where there is pain, there can be altered movement. A physiotherapist will aim at reducing or eliminating that pain, in order to help muscles resume normal movement patterns.
If these measures don't achieve the desired results and especially if there are bone spurs or tumors involved, then the patient may have to undergo a surgery. Doctors may recommend surgery only if nonsurgical treatments are futile. If you are looking for professional physiotherapists to help you cure the Snapping Scapula Syndrome, you can contact us and we will ensure that your disorder is rectified.