Snapping scapula is a general term applied to a range of disorders that can result in a painful clicking or snapping sensation in the shoulder blade (scapula). It has been given a number of names over the years including scapulothoracic syndrome, rolling scapula, snapping scapula and grating scapula.
Why does snapping scapula happen?
Snapping scapula can occur for a variety of reasons. It can be a secondary symptom to shoulder instability, such as a dislocation, or nerve disorders leading to weakened muscles. It can be caused by a bony lump (exostosis) at the top of the shoulder blade, or by a fracture to either the shoulder blade or the ribs.
Snapping scapula can also be caused by problems with the bursae. These are fluid-filled sacs which sit between certain bone joints to help the shoulder move smoothly. Muscle tears around the scapula's bursa, soft tissue lumps near the bursa or inflammation of the bursa itself, caused by diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or rubbing against a bony spur, could all lead to snapping scapula symptoms.
Occasionally the clicking sensation felt in the shoulder blade has been transmitted from problems that originate in the shoulder's ball and socket joint. When examining your shoulder blade, Mr. Cole will look at your shoulder to eliminate the possibility of problems elsewhere.
Causes of Snapping Scapula
Muscle / soft tissue
- Atrophy (wasting)
- Anatomic variations
- Rib Fractures
- Scapular fractures
- Spurs and tubercles of bone
- Thoracic spinal problems
How common is it?
Snapping scapula can often be under recognised by health professionals. It is especially common in young and active patients, including professional athletes, as the symptoms are frequently seen with overhead and throwing motions.