In this post we’ll “dissect” the scapular stabilizers, and we’ll discuss why they should first be looked at from a mobility standpoint.
When we talk about the shoulder, we need to consider a group of muscles called the scapular stabilizers.
Actually the term “stabilizers” is a bit of a misnomer. Nothing about the scapula is truly meant to be “stable.” If it were, it would have a much better bony connection. But it doesn’t have a great bony connection to the body. It has an incredibly expansive muscular connection to the body.
That’s why when we talk about the scapula, we need to think of it in terms of controlled mobility, not necessarily stability. I still use the term “scapular stability” since it’s commonly accepted, but I really want you to think about it as controlled mobility.
The muscles in this area that focus on controlled mobility of the scapula include the trapezius – specifically the lower trapezius muscle. We also have the middle trapezius and the upper trapezius. This is really all one big, fan-shaped muscle with fibers coming in different directions. The trapezius is an extremely important muscle group when we’re talking about the shoulder.
We also have the rhomboids, which attach themselves onto the medial border of the scapula right to the center of the spine.
Another really important muscle for us when we look at the shoulder is the serratus anterior. That serratus actually attaches underneath the scapula. It attaches onto the medial border, runs underneath between the shoulder blade and the ribcage, and attaches further down onto the ribs. The serratus anterior is such an important muscle because it’s what keeps the scapula attached to the thorax, so it doesn’t come winging out.
You can see in the photo that the subject has a little bit of medial border winging. Often when we see this compensation of medial border winging, it’s because the serratus anterior may not be working properly. The serratus anterior is really what keeps this shoulder blade flat against the thorax.
Along with the serratus anterior, we have the rotator cuff. Everybody has heard of the rotator cuff. Keep in mind this group is really four different muscles. The rotator cuff is made up of the teres minor. We’ve got the infraspinatus, the supraspinatus, and also the subscapularis up front.
These four muscles work together to externally rotate and internally rotate the shoulder. Yes, they definitely do that. However, as a group, these four muscles really work well together in order to centrate the humeral head.
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