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What is the function of the scapula?

Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy
The scapula (shoulder blade) is a strange-looking triangular bone that's slightly curved. It houses a socket into which the head of the humerus fits to form the shoulder joint. When at rest, the scapula must sit at the correct height on the trunk as well as the correct distance from the spine. This sets the stage for arm movement. When the arm moves, the scapula must lift upward or elevate, rotate away from the spine, slide away from the spine (abduct), and finally tilt backward (posterior tilting). It must do this to help the arm perform whatever task it's trying to do. If the shoulder blade doesn't help the arm, then excessive stress is placed on the shoulder joint because it bears more than its share of the load. In almost every shoulder patient I see, at least a few of these functions aren't working so well.

Elevation, rotation, and abduction take place as the shoulder blade slides around on the trunk. In contrast, posterior tilting involves the scapula scooping away from the trunk.
Fixing You: Shoulder & Elbow Pain: Self-treatment for rotator cuff strain, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, and other diagnoses.

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Fixing You: Shoulder & Elbow Pain: Self-treatment for rotator cuff strain, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, and other diagnoses.

The shoulders are a floating system on the trunk, held in place and moved by muscular control. The foundation of shoulder movement is the shoulder blade which has precise resting and moving...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.