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The scapula alata — sometimes known as winged scapula — is a medical condition involving the scapula. A person with scapula alata has a scapula that appears to protrude from the skin on the side nearest the spine. This gives the appearance of wings in some cases.
The causes of winged scapula are many and varied although in general it results from weakened or inhibited muscles in the surrounding area. Although there are a number of different exercises to help strengthen muscles which may cause the problem in some cases surgery is required.
One of the most common causes of the condition is when a muscle known as the serratus anterior becomes too weak. This can cause the scapula to assume an abnormal position and give rise to the winged appearance. In some cases a nerve in the shoulder or back becomes impinged and this can cause a muscle such as the serratus anterior to become paralyzed and unable to perform its job correctly.
Another potential cause of scapula alata is damage or problems with the trapezius muscle. This is a large muscle situated in the shoulder that can become stretched when there is an issue with the serratus anterior. This, however, happens over the course of several weeks, meaning the scapula alata may not occur or become visible immediately after an injury.
Aside from the obvious appearance of the scapula through the skin there are several other symptoms of the condition. For example, the person may have difficulty in lifting his or her arm upward. The appearance of the scapula may also be more noticeable if the person pushes away from his or her body.
Due to scapula alata sometimes being caused by a weakened muscle physical therapy is often used to treat it. Endurance and strength exercises are used to get the muscle working correctly again. In some cases stretching may also be used although this has the potential to cause more damaged if not performed with the supervision of a trained professional.
Massage is also sometimes used to help loosen the surrounding muscles that can allow the serratus anterior to start functioning again. The idea is to improve the health of the muscles in the area. This is a treatment that should be performed by a trained massage therapist. In the worst cases, surgery may be required in order to treat the underlying problem that is causing the condition.
@B707 - I've been a nurse for 25 years, and I have only seen a few cases of scapula alata. It is fairly rare. It can be caused by a traumatic injury, by a virus, or repeated movements. Nerves are injured and so you have problems with the function of your upper body. Muscles don't work. You may have difficulty lifting, reaching,and brushing your teeth. It can be painful.
Treatment is usually simply exercises supervised by a physical therapist. If the muscles don't start working correctly, then surgery is usually done.
Scapular winging is an interesting condition. I have never heard of it nor have I seen anyone whose back has a protrusion like wings. It sound like the cause is usually muscular. Does anyone know if it is genetic, or just a muscular weakness that develops?
This definitely sounds like a condition that needs a very specially trained physical therapist.