How to fix a Winged Scapula

winged scapula

Image from ePainAssist.

What is a Winged Scapula?

A Winged Scapula is when the medial (inner) border of the shoulder blade protrudes off the rib cage.

 (… Ideally – it should sit completely flat!)

Winging of the scapula can be observed in:

  • Natural resting posture (static) and/or
  • Certain shoulder movements (dynamic).

It is often one of the causes of shoulder impingement and shoulder blade pain.

 

What are the causes?

1. Pec minor tightness/over-activity:

Have a look at your posture. Are your shoulders rounding forward?

If they are… I can guaranty that your pec minor muscle will be tight (along with the upper trapezius, levator scapula and biceps). And this is a problem!

Why?…

Not only will it pull the shoulder blade off the rib cage, it will also place the shoulder blade into an ineffective position.

This will lead to…


2. 
Serratus anterior weakness/inhibition:

The Serratus anterior is the primary muscle that keeps the scapula flat on the rib cage.

If you do not have control of this muscle, it may result in a winged scapula.

 

 

3. Long thoracic nerve palsy:

The Long thoracic nerve supplies the Serratus anterior muscle.

Therefore – any damage to this nerve will result in the inability keep the scapula flat onto the rib cage.

(However… from what I have come across in the clinic, Long thoracic nerve damage is actually very rare!)

 

Quick tests – “Do I have it?”


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

a) Static test

Take a photograph of your back.

Can you see the inner border of the shoulder blade pop out?

b) Dynamic test:

Take a video of yourself performing a push up onto the wall.

Observe for any winging of the scapula during movement.

How to fix a Winged Scapula


Note: All exercises are to designed to be performed pain-free. If you are unsure of anything, please feel free to contact me on the facebook page.


 1. Release the pec minor

The pec minor is actually quite a difficult muscle to stretch properly.

Solution?… Release it!

Instructions:

  • Place massage ball directly underneath of your pec minor.
    • To locate your pec minor, you can see it here.
  • Apply pressure into the ball using your body weight.
  • To increase the release, move your arm around.
  • Hold for 1  minute.
  • Repeat 3 times.

 

2. Stretches

These tight muscles pull the shoulder blade into a position where the Serratus Anterior muscle is unable to function properly.

(For a more great stretches, check out the post on How to fix Rounded shoulders.)

a) Upper trapezius

Instructions:

  • Hold onto a stationary object at hip level.
    • (You can also use a stretch or resistance band if you have one.)
  • Lean away from that hand to lock the shoulder blade down.
  • Tilt your head in the opposite direction.
    • To increase stretch: Pull the side of your head further using your other hand.
  • Aim to feel a stretch between your shoulder and neck.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

b) Levator scapula

Instructions:

  • Hold onto a stationary object at hip level.
    • (You can also use a stretch or resistance band if you have one.)
  • Lean away from that hand to lock the shoulder blade down.
  • Tilt your head towards the opposite arm pit.
    • To increase stretch: Pull the side of your head further using your other hand.
  • Aim to feel a stretch between your neck and shoulder blade.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

c) Pec minor

Instructions:

  • Place your hand on a door frame. (see above)
  • Keep your shoulder blades locked downwards.
  • Lunge forwards.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the chest area.
    • Make sure that you do not arch your lower back as you push into the wall.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

d) Front shoulder stretch

Instructions:

  • With both hands on a bench behind you, let your body sink down as low as possible. (see above)
  • Keep your shoulder blades squeezed together.
  • Keep your elbows in. Don’t let them flare out.
  • You should feel a stretch at the front of your shoulders.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

 

 

3. Wake up your Serratus Anterior!

The Serratus Anterior is the most important muscle in fixing your winged scapula! It keeps your shoulder blade flat on your rib cage!

** Hey you! – Read this! **

In all of the following exercise, it is VITAL that you know how to activate and feel the serratus anterior muscle working.

Activating the Serratus anterior:

Instructions:

  • Assume the wall plank position.
  • Activate the Serratus anterior. (… Remember this!! I’m going to keep repeating it below.)
    • Tilt the shoulder blades BACKWARDS.
    • Pull your shoulder blades DOWN and AROUND the ribs.
  • Push your forearms into the wall.
  • Aim to feel the contraction in the lower and side region of the scapula.
    • (… This is where the Serratus anterior muscle is!)
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • Progress this contraction with your arms in different positions to get a good feel of the exercise. (see above)

Once you understand exactly how to ENGAGE the serratus anterior, let’s get started with the exercises!

Note: The below exercises are arranged in order of difficulty. Aim to progress to the next level only when you are ready.


Level 1: Isolate the Serratus anterior. 

a) Rock back

 

Instructions:

  • Assume the plank position with your knees on the floor.
  • Activate the Serratus Anterior.
  • Push your forearms into the floor.
  • Rock backwards and forwards.
  • Repeat 30 times.

b) Push up plus (wall)

Instructions:

  • Assume the push up position on the wall with your arms straightened.
  • Activate the Serratus anterior.
  • Push your arms into the wall.
  • Whilst keeping your arms completely straight, proceed to protract your shoulder blades.
    • Think of your shoulder blades gliding down and around.
  • Do not round your back.
  • Hold this end position for 5 seconds.
  • Slowly bring your shoulder blades back to the starting neutral position
  • Repeat 30 times.

c) Push up plus (plank position)

Instructions:

  • Assume the plank position on the wall. (see above)
  • Activate the Serratus anterior.
  • Push your forearms into the wall.
  • Whilst keeping your forearms on the wall, proceed to protract your shoulder blades.
    • Think of your shoulder blades gliding down and around.
  • Hold this end position for 5 seconds.
  • Bring shoulder blades back to the starting neutral position
  • Repeat 30 times.

 

Level 2: Serratus anterior isolation (+ Resistance)

d) Push up plus (with resistance band)

Instructions:

  • Hold onto a resistance band as shown above.
    • (Make sure you choose a resistance you can handle.)
  • Assume the above position on the wall with your arms straightened.
  • Activate the Serratus anterior.
  • Whilst keeping your arms completely straight, proceed to protract your shoulder blades.
  • Hold this end position for 5 seconds.
  • Bring shoulder blades back to the starting neutral position
  • Repeat 30 times.

e) Protraction in lying

Instructions:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Whilst holding onto a weight, lock your arms straight in front of you.
    • Use a weight that you are able to control properly.
  • Activate the Serratus anterior.
  • Push the weight up towards the sky whilst keeping the arm straight.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Repeat 30 times.

Level 3: Serratus anterior activation (+ Shoulder movement)

f) Push up

Instructions:

  • Assume a push up position on the wall.
  • Activate the Serratus anterior THROUGHOUT movement.
  • Perform a push up.
  • Repeat 30 times.

g) Wall slides (with resistance band)

Instructions:

  • Hold onto a resistance band. (see above)
  • Assume the wall plank position.
  • Activate the Serratus anterior THROUGHOUT movement.
  • Slide your forearms up/down the wall.
    • Maintain pressure on the wall through the forearms
  • Repeat 15 times.

h) 1 arm pivot

Instructions:

  • Assume the wall plank position. (see above)
  • Activate the Serratus anterior muscle.
  • Push the forearm (on the side of the winged scapula) into the wall.
  • Whilst keep that arm fixated on the wall, rotate your body away.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Repeat 15 times.

i) Arm raises (with resistance band)

Instructions:

  • Hold onto a resistance band. (as shown above)
  • Activate the Serratus anterior THROUGHOUT movement.
    • Try to push your hands as far away from the body whilst keeping your shoulder blades back, down and around throughout movement.
  • Raise and lower your arms from your side.
  • Repeat 15 times.

 

 

Level 4: Weight bear (Both arms)

j) Plank

Instructions:

  • Assume the plank position on the floor. (see above)
  • Activate the Serratus anterior muscle.
  • Push the forearms into the floor.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds.
    • (If you can not hold this with good technique, try to do the exercise with your knees on the floor)
  • Do NOT let your shoulder blades cave in.

k) Push up

Instructions:

  • Assume the push up position on the floor. (see above)
  • Activate the Serratus anterior muscle THROUGHOUT movement.
  • Perform a push up.
  • Do NOT let your shoulder blades cave in.
  • Repeat 10 times.

 

Level 5: Weight bear (Single arm)

m) Straight arm plank (with pivot)

Instructions:

  • Assume the straight arm plank position. (see above)
  • Activate the Serratus anterior muscle THROUGHOUT exercise.
  • Lean your weight into the hand that is on the side of the winged scapula.
  • Whilst keep that arm fixated on the floor, slowly rotate your body away.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

 

l) Plank (with reach)

Instructions:

  • Assume the plank position. (see above)
  • Activate the Serratus anterior muscle THROUGHOUT exercise.
  • Lean your weight onto the forearm that is on the side of the winged scapula.
  • Whilst keep that arm fixated on the floor, slowly reach forward.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

 


Remember…

Now that you know how to engage your Serratus Anterior muscle, it is important that you practice activating it throughout the day.

Keep your shoulder blades tilted backwardsdown and around.

 

Any questions?… Leave me a comment down below!

About

I am a physiotherapist who has personally experienced the pain as a result of bad posture. I would like to offer you some of the solutions that I and my patients have greatly benefited from.

View all posts by

164 thoughts on “How to fix a Winged Scapula

  1. Hi, my name is Blake. I am 23, I am 6’3 and I have a slew of issues going on from playing basketball as well as running track collegiately. Most recently I ran, jumped, threw and hurdled as a decathlete, we also performed a great deal of powerlifting including snatch, cleans, low squatting, and more. I’ve always trained back and legs, yet my pecs have always been over developed. I always tried to keep my shoulder back and had anterior pelvic tilt. I always had hip and shoulder pain especially in my right shoulder, but left hip. Since then I’ve been diagnosed with a torn labrum in my left hip, and my right scapula is SICK, or in diskenesis. My left hip feels hiked, as far as I can tell with the tests from your lateral pelvic tilt page. The QL stretch kills on the left side being stretched compared to the right being stretched. However, my right shoulder only appears lower, but really I believe it is rolled forward with an inward rotated humerus, so I guess it is consistent with the kinetic chain pictures. I am having a difficult time determining which foot has a collapsed arch, but I think it is my left arch, even though that is the hiked hip. That left ankle has mobility issues in comparison to my right because of many ankle sprains.

    I know that’s a lot of info, I can’t imagine the amount of help you provide others. The misinformation in coaching at high school levels alone astounded me; but once I began studying kinesiology while running at Michigan State, I realized even some of my collegiate coaches were misinformed.

    1. Is it possible my legs are different lengths? I have been tested for that negatively multiple times, but why would my left arch collapse and my left hip hike, rather than drop with that foot?

      1. Hi Blake,

        If you have been tested multiple times and they have all been negative, then it is unlikely that you have a true structural leg length discrepancy.

        You can get a left arch collapse regardless of what side pelvic tilt you have. If you have a left lateral pelvic tilt with left foot arch collapse, I would also do foot strengthening for that side as well. (esp. if you have had multiple ankle sprains on this side)

        You can also have a lower right shoulder with a left lateral tilt. This means that either your shoulder is being pulled down by the shoulder blade muscles and/or your spine has counter tilted to the other side.

        Mark

  2. hi mark im 15 years old and i think ive had winged scapula for years but i realise it makes me weaker in my sport and training
    do you have a regime for how long i should be doing these exercises as in how many times per week
    should give it rest days or not????
    please respond quick 🙂

    1. Hi Anass,

      Try to do them every day if your body will allow it.

      Otherwise – every 2-3 days is fine to start off with with the aim of increasing frequency per week.

      Mark

      1. Hi mark if I do all these exercises 3-5 times a week how long may it take to get rid of the winged scalpia

  3. I stopped swimming because of scapular winging. Almost one year of rehabilitation did not helped me (it helped me in short term i did not feel pain but u still felt discomfort in back.) I feel pain under scapula and there (on the botton of scapula) i have scapular winging. I also have scoliosis(i asume it is product of scapular winging). I am doing this exercises for really long and i did not notice big diffrence. My triceps and biceps on the hand that i have scapular wingig are tight and i dont know what is cause of that especialy triceps that i feel tightness around elbow. How fix that and how make this exercises to work for me?
    Thanks for making this article.

  4. Hello Mark,

    I have a winged left scapula and am very grateful for These exercises do you think its okay to keep training the pain is just minor to my left front delt and my trap is slightly tight. should I just focus on the stretching before I go back to lifting Heavy?

    1. Hey Ryan,

      Try to avoid training into the pain.

      If you push it too far at the gym, it may make a simple injury become a much more complex problem.

      Mark

  5. Hi Mark,

    I have some problems with my posture, winged scapula and also scoliosis, may I somehow contact you, I would like to learn some tips in order to fix these problems, that are affecting my every day life?

    Thanks 😁

  6. Mark thank you so much for showing us these exercises. I’d like to ask you some questions about my shoulders and scapula because i am having some problems with them. How can I contact you?

    Ahmed

  7. Hi Mark!
    My name is Mikael Moronta I’m 16 years old, 6’1 feet tall, and weight around 160 lb. I have my two wings exposed on resting position. They have never caused me pain or any type of problem, they are just horrendous to look at. I think I have had them for my entire life. Are they there because I’m too skinny or because I need to do this exercises. I already work out three times a week but I really want to get rid of this wings.

    Thanks for reading I hope to hear from you soon!

    1. Hi Mikael,

      Being skinny would not cause your scapula to wing, however, it can make it more apparent.

      See how you go with these exercises 🙂

      Mark

  8. Hi Mark! Great article. I’m 16 years old, 6’2 feet tall and weight around 160. I have had this “wings” as long as I can remember. Do I have to do these exercises to fix it or they just show because I’m too skinny?

  9. I have a severe winged scapula on my right side. At first they thought a torn rotator cuff. But after an MRI the ortho thought I had damage to my long thoracic nerve. Either from a fall I had in October or maybe just overuse working in the oilfield. Been doing pt for two weeks. Should I get an emt test to make sure the nerve is damaged and how badly? I feel like pt isn’t going to accomplish anything if serratus anterior isn’t getting impulses from the nerve. Thought about trying a chiropractor, thoracic outlet surgery, TENS therapy, decompression micro neeolysis, interferential current, scapular bracing. Already doing most of the exercises u have mentioned. I’m very active person. If I’m not at work or playing with my kids I’m lifting weights(p90x type workouts). Having no timeline for recovery is the worst part.

    1. Hey Wingman,

      I would get your long thoracic nerve tested as without nerve innervation, it was will very difficult to engage the serratus anterior muscle if no signals are going through.

      Even so, I would still continue with these exercises regardless of nerve damage or not.

      Mark

  10. Hi Mark,
    Thanks a lot for the reply.Yes I have knocked knees.Iam already following the exercises given by you to fix knocked knees. Do I need to do some other exercises also to fix my problem of lateralisation of patella in left knee ? My doctor told me to strengthen VMO ‘s . Are the exercises given by you enough to strengthen the VMO ‘s or do I need to do some extra work for that. Thanks a lot again.

  11. Hi Mark,
    I have been diagnosed with lateralisation of patella in my left knee and I think I have the same problem in my right knee also.I have to get MRI done to confirm it . can you please help me out with what exercises and stretches I need to follow to correct my knees without surgery. Thanks.

  12. HI MARK . i have recntly started having pain around my shoulder blades mostly under the blades or on the side next to my spinal cord.Could you please tell me what exactly to do?

    breanna

  13. Hi Mark,
    Thank you for making this website

    For a number of reasons, I’ve had bad posture most of my life, but in the last year and half I have had what I believe is a winged scapula on the left side, primarily from a sports injury; over extending it during a dragon boat race. The source of pain seems to be right underneath the winged piece and it burns 24/7. Sometimes it’s mild and many other times it is worse. Most of the stretching and exercise techniques I’ve been given by several specialists seem to only inflame the area more, so I have trouble sticking with a routine. I’m open to trying some low impact stretches, but do you have any additional recommendations as well?:

    * How can I rest it properly?
    * Is taping a good form of relief therapy?
    * What’s the best position to sleep in? as well as mattress & pillow type?
    * Any dietary tips? foods/drinks/vitamins/minerals to help or to avoid?
    * Why does it seem like it’s not healing, even after more than a year?
    * Do you know of any procedures or surgeries that are effective for this sort of thing?

    I realize some some of these questions may be beyond your area of study, so I understand if you are unable to advise on all, but I’ve been suffering for so long and I just want this injury to heal and am willing to explore any viable option

    Thank you very much for your time

    1. Hey E,

      For some symptomatic relief, have a look at the exercises on this post: Shoulder blade pain.

      * How can I rest it properly?
      Avoid any activities or positions that cause the pain until you have found out exactly what’s causing it.

      * Is taping a good form of relief therapy?
      It can be the position of your scapula is off.

      * What’s the best position to sleep in? as well as mattress & pillow type?
      I am big on sleeping on the back due to symmetry, however, you can sleep on your side as well. In terms of pillow and mattress, that one is hard to answer as everyone is different. But have a look at this post: Best sleeping posture for some more ideas.

      * Any dietary tips? foods/drinks/vitamins/minerals to help or to avoid?
      This falls outside my expertise 🙂 A nutritionist would be the best person to talk to. I recommend magnesium to some of my patients if they are suffering from cramping muscles.

      * Why does it seem like it’s not healing, even after more than a year?
      It is very likely that you have not found the main driver causing your pain. Also – you are probably still doing things that are making it worse at the same time.

      * Do you know of any procedures or surgeries that are effective for this sort of thing?
      Nope! I try to avoid surgery at all cost (if possible)

      Hope this helps.

      Mark

  14. Hey Mark I can’t thank you enough for this, I have always been made fun of because of the winging my body does. I’m currently about to start your exercises and I’m wondering how long it typically takes to feel the difference 🙂

  15. Hi there Mark,

    I have scoliosis and I believe it is the cause for my right winged scapula (I’ve been told by a Chiropractor). I just want to find out if it is fixable by means of these exercises or would I be wasting my time.

    Thank you so much for all the info!

  16. Hi Mark. From my young age i have winged scapulla and that has as a result to rounded shoulders. I was a swimmers for many years and now i lift weights at the gym and i have pain in my one shoulder where the scapulla is worse. First of all do you know what is that pain which is in the front of the shoulder and second what i must do to fix it?? Start with winged scapula or rounded shoulders??

    1. Hi Aristotelis,

      Front shoulder pain could be anything! But here is some brain storming for you:
      – Long head biceps
      – Subscapularis
      – Supraspinatus/Infraspinatus
      – Anterior deltoid
      – Bursitis
      – Latissimus/pec major tendon

      Not sure if that helps, but it gives you the general idea that there are many structures there that can get injured to due a poorly functioning shoulder blade.

      If you have both scapula winging AND rounded shoulders, you can start on either really.. But I generally go for the winging.

      Mark

  17. I am wondering if these exercises will do anything for me if I DO have long thracic nerve palsy? My issue has been ongoing since mid June 2017 and is still very prevalent today. I have done all the exercises and even got on of those electrode deals (name is escaping me right now) to purposefully wake up the serratus anterior muscles. To say this journey has been disheartening would be an understatement. I was able to get a referral for an EMG but neurologist is booking out to May 2018…. not the news I was hoping for. Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Hi Natalie,

      It is very difficult (perhaps not even possible) to engage the serratus anterior if you do not have the nerve innervation to the muscle.

      If there is still some electrical signal going through and if you are persistent over time, there is a chance you can still get that serratus anterior muscle firing off.

      Mark

  18. Hey man, love the exercises, I can really feel the contractions. However I also have issues with rounded (internally rotated shoulders) and whenever I activate my serratus anterior it feels like I’m also training my shoulders to be internally rotated. How do I prevent this and does training the serratus antagonistic to training external rotation using the rotator cuffs.

    1. Hey Jack,

      That’s awesome that you can feel your serratus anterior firing off now.

      The next step is to engage your serratus anterior (“push out your shoulder blade”) AND rhomboids “pull in your shoulder blades”… at the same time. (easier said than done)

      Make sure they are balanced.

      This should help you with your rounded shoulders.

      Once you have figured this balance out among the muscles controlling the position of the scapula, I would then added rotator cuff strengthening on top of that.

      Mark

  19. Hi Mark,

    I am 24 and have had a bad posture since day 1. I have been attempting to fix it but have so many issues to be worked on along side one another. However, when it comes to activating the serratus anterior my scapula naturally wing. I have tried to do roll them down and around the ribs, but have bad no luck. Is this how my body activates the serratus anterior, or am I doing it wrong?

    Thanks for your great website by the way!

    1. Hey Patrick,

      Activation of the serratus anterior should pin and wrap that shoulder blade to the rib cage.

      Most common reason for what you have described is that you may not be activating your actual serratus anterior. (ie. your activating other muscle/s)

      You might need to try out different ways of activating it using different exercises.

      Try out this activation drill here.

      Mark

  20. Hi Mark,
    I have winged scapulas, rounded shoulders, neck issues as well as shoulder pain. I think it’s all related. As I’ve been trying to correct all of this. I notice an overall increase in tension, especially in my neck. I figured behaviorally addressing the posture would be the most important. But I’m wondering if I should only be vigilant about it maybe every other day so my body can catch up. What do you think? My traps feel pretty knotty all the way up to the base of my skull since trying to improve posture.

    1. Hi Natalie,

      What you have described is very common.

      Although it is quite normal to feel a bit of an ache after performing these exercises as your muscles are unaccustomed to being worked out, you want to aim to maintain a better posture as NATURAL, GENTLE and using as little muscle effort as possible.

      The usual reason this occurs is that you are probably forcing certain exercises/movements/postures which people generally feel that they need to do.

      My advice – Go gentle. Focus on releases/stretches to make the movement easier. Only stick to exercise where you can keep your neck relaxed.

      Let me know how it goes!

      Mark

  21. Hi Mark

    19 years old here. I have some scapular winging on my left side of my back, which seems to be more rounded as well. My left shoulder used to be very elevated compared to my right shoulder, but it has almost been fixed. However, my left shoulder blade is still sticking out and is constantly snapping, do you know what the cause(s) could be? Badly wanna fix it since it has made me lose some cm, and it doesn’t look really nice to have that hunched appearance either.

    Also thanks for the rich information you provide on this website.

    1. Hey Kasra,

      It sounds like your muscle (probably middle traps would be my guess) is causing your snapping sound which I assume you experience when you rolls your shoulders backwards?

      I usually find this due the elongated muscle fibres as a result of rounded shoulders.

      Take a look at this post:
      How to fix rounded shoulders.

      Mark

  22. Hi Mark

    Thanks for the article. I have suffered with left sided scapular winging for some time. Whenever I bicep curl I feel my left shoulder tilt anteriorly and feel pain below the medial tip of the scapular. Also whenever I try to do any rowing movement I can’t seem to fully contract the lower trapezius. I feel like my serratus and lower trapezius aren’t functioning correctly. Besides these exercises and trying to release my lower pecs, do you have any other suggestions?

    Thanks
    Sam

    1. Hey Sam,

      You can try releasing short head biceps and coracobrachialis which both are used in elbow flexion AND anterior tilting of the scapula. They be over active and/or you are recruiting them too much.

      Coracobrachialis:

      Short head biceps:

      If you have issues only on the left side, I would be looking at your posture. Are you rotated? Shoulder level? Leaning to one side? etc. This may encourage you to use the wrong muscles when curling.

      If it is just a matter of lower trap activation issues, I would focus on lower trap isolation exercises without weight.

      Eg:

      You could also consider doing partial range of motion training. THat is- when bicep training, only bend your elbow as far as you can keep your shoulders in the desired position.

      Mark

      1. Hi Mark, do you have any suggestions on how best to release these muscles? These are tight for me and when I flex elbow and go into plank position etc they get tighter and restrict movement.

        Thanks, your posts and advice are so helpful.
        Natalie

  23. Are all of these stretches achievable with bilateral winged scapula?? I am desperate to fix this issue. I am a single mom and a domestic abuse survivor that is in need of fixing my “chicken wings” as my toddler calls them. Please help!

  24. Hi Mark

    Thanks so much for this post, finally feel the serratus activate when doing the wall press!

    Couple questions. I have only mild winging, but how long do you expect it takes to start to see improvement? Secondly, and sort of linked, my winging is extremely prominent when doing any chest or bicep exercises. I feel like the moment I have weight tilt my scapular anteriorly it just gives way. Is there anything I should do on top of these exercises to break this mind muscle link. I struggle to “find” the serratus unless my arms are overhead, pushing the tilt more posterior.

    Thanks for your information

  25. Great article again. What are your opinions on prolotherapy for awekinign the SA? My scapular wining doesn’t improve well afer months of physical therapy.

    1. Hi Celil,

      I personally haven’t seen prolotherapy injections help re-engage/activate certain muscles.

      Have you been tested for Long thoracic nerve issues? If there is an issue with this nerve, it may present as difficulty/inability to engage the serratus anterior muscles.

      Mark

  26. Hello mark,

    So basically a few months ago I broke my clavical playing football. Ever since it has healed my left shoulder blade appears to be incredibly winged. Would these exercises help even with that bone healed the way it has?

    1. Hey David,

      Did the clavicle heal in the correct place?

      If it didn’t – it may be the cause of your now winged scapula.

      If there was good healing in the correct position, it is likely that some of your muscles (especially pec minor) may have compensated for the pain in the shoulder region resulting in the winged position.

      Mark

  27. Hey Mark,
    Thank you for your explanations and suggestions, they are very helpful.

    I have a winging scapula due to a fall that also broke my collar bone. It has be over 10 years and I am struggling with the pain in my back. I had a surgery to fix my collar bone and is well and perfectly healed. However I suffer from back muscle pain (around my right scapula) continuously and I am starting to get really concerned with my ability to care for kids as my husband and I are trying. Can anything be done surgically?

  28. Hey Mark, i’m in my mid teens and I think i have winged scpaular, i do workout often. Could my winged scpaular be linked to a strong front and a weak back (I negelected back traing untill now). What are the best sleeping postitions to fix this and will it fix itself by doing backworkouts. I have done these exersises for about 2 weeks and nothing changes. If i just do back workouts twice a week will that work? How long does this problem take becuase i feel ashamed of m body despite being realitvly muscular. Pease help:)

  29. My left shoulder blade is winged out. I also have osteoarthritis in the left shoulder which I suspect is what’s caused the shoulder blade to wing out! The stretches were easy to do as I can sit to do them but the ones standing or lying down are completely impossible to do (I also have OA in the left knee). Would the stretches be enough? Are there other exercises I could do?

    1. Hi Rose,

      Focus on the exercise you can do. It is very unlikely that you can do ALL of them to begin with.

      As you improve, you can progress to the harder ones.

      Mark

  30. Hi there !
    I have winged scapula and I’m 15 years old.
    Don’t you do videos ?!
    I really want to get rid of this because I wanted to join Indian Navy.
    Please help me !

  31. Mark,

    I have been weight lifting for awhile and have a strong back, but seems like I have been working on my chest more than my back. I get pain in the shoulder blades only when I pull my scapula back and down and try to do one of these excercises. Is that normal, will the pain go away as the serratus gets stronger? Feels like a tight tight pain, I tried rolling out and stretching all these area before doing the excercises, but doesn’t seem to help. Just want to know if you have heard the same?
    Thank you.

          1. It is in the same area on the pic you have up on your, SHOULDER BLADE PAIN page. Only difference is it travels up to my trap when I try to pull my neck back, and when I try to do side raises, it will travel around my rear delt area. It all feels like it is just really tight and won’t release.

  32. Hello Mark, This article may be a godsend for me. I am 33 and have had 3 shoulder surgeries. I tore my labrum 2x from softball injuries and had another surgery due to persisting pain in the shoulder (shoulder debridement). Needless to say I have had pain in my bicep tendon in front of my shoulder for 6 years. I recently went for a 2nd opinion and the doctor recommended a Bicep Tendonesis Surgery due to a possible failed SLAP repair. Currently the surgery is scheduled for January but I am having reservations. I have a winged scapula and rounded shoulders. Do you think it is possible that my bicep pain can be mitigated without surgery if I correct these issues? Thank you!

    1. Hi Jackie,

      I am going to say it is possible!

      Always try every conservative route before considering surgery.

      Fixing your rounded shoulders and winged scapula may take some load off your biceps tendon.

      However… Since the Long head biceps attached directly into the labrum/capsule of the shoulder, your tendon is essentially functioning from a probable unstable foundation. This may make it very difficult for the biceps to get stronger without flaring up.

      All the best!

      Mark

  33. Hey mark i think a have got a winged scapula and it looks terrible! It’s been 3 months since i joined the gym but just yesterday i came to know of such things winging out while my frnd witnessed it! Do u suggest i should leave the gym !! These exercise will help right! Plz reply a guy in need i am just 19

    1. Hey Mo,

      If you would like to fix your Winged Scapula, I would focus on these exercises first.

      When you are able to maintain a better position of your scapula, you can then challenge it with the gym.

      Mark

  34. Hi
    When i try activate my srratus anterior i feel strain and little bit of pain between my shoulder blades ,like around the spine from both sides. Is this normal?

  35. Hi Mark,
    My name is Jordan. I am 17 years old and I started wrestling at my school like 2 months ago, and I’ve been trying everything to fix my winged scapula, me and my parents don’t know how I got it, but I really want to make both sides of my body equal in size and strength.
    I only have it on the left side of my body whereas my right side of my body is fully developed and strong. Do you have any suggestions or tips that could help me?

      1. I’m doing great with them, after I finish all of them I feel great, and I really feel the muscles I barely use during practice being worked better with the Serratus Anterior Activation excercises.

        1. Hey Jordan,

          Keep up the good work with the serratus anterior activation exercises.

          These will help keep your shoulder blade flat on your ribs.

          You want to progress to the harder levels as you get better!

          Mark

  36. Wow,
    I can’t tell you have much I appreciate this article. I’m 17 and for a few years now I have been plagued by static winged scapula on both sides. I’ve looked and many YouTube videos and even went to a physical therapist for a sports related neck injury. They gave me resistance bands for strengthening my neck and back muscles saying the exercises they gave me would help fix my winged scapula. However, they didn’t tell me anything about activating my serratus anterior and none of the exercises seemed to be strengthening that muscle. Your article helped me discover how to activate this muscle so I can strengthen it and alerted me to the fact that I have tight neck muscles as well. Now I feel like I have somewhere to start and a clear path to eliminating my winged scapula!
    Thanks again,

    Ya Boi

    1. Hi Kate,

      If you can feel the muscle whilst is contracting in the general area on your ribs, that is a definite sign.

      If you are not sure, you can place your other hand on the serratus and see if you can feel it engage then.

      Another sure sign is if your scapula actually stops winging, then you know your serratus is definitely switched on!

      Mark

  37. Hi Mark,

    I just got out of an appt with my ortho surgeon. I’m afraid my winged scapula could be from a damaged long thoraic nerve. Do you think these exercises could help even if the winging stems from a damaged LTN? What about if the LTN is permanently damaged (idk if this is the case, I may have to get an EMG to determine that)?

    1. Hi Charlie,

      You will need an EMG to check it that LTN is damaged.

      I would still recommend doing these exercises as your LTN may not be 100% affected. (which means you should still be able to recruit your serratus anterior)

      Mark

  38. Hi mark, for the past 5 months I’ve had SEVERE winging scapula, so severe that my wings stick out really far, and it really bothers me. My question is how long will I need to do these excersizes for, and can u recommend me excersizes that have more effect?
    Thank you

    1. Hey Zaid,

      How long will it take? It really depends! (Very hard question to answer tbh)

      The exercises on the blog post are the best ones that I know of for winged scapula.

      What happened 5 months ago?

      Mark

  39. Hi Mark,
    Just want to thank you for the article! I have had a winged scapula for months and received some PT exercises but I never got any cues on how to tell if I was activating my serratus anterior. So I wasn’t doing the exercises right and didn’t get any relief from my pain. Now that I can feel the muscle activating I am sure I will see some progress!

  40. Hi Mark, can it be 1 or the other, lack of flexibility/bad posture or lack of muscle?
    I have experimented with the excerises some and feel that the resistance and strengthening excersizes are pretty easy. I workout frequently and when I engage the muscle S. Anterior it feels pretty well developed. Should I focus more on the stretching? That has always been much more of a weakness for me.

    In addition is there a timeline that I should expect to see results in assuming I am doing the excersizes daily?

    1. Hey Ryan,

      If your serratus anterior is strong and you can control it through full range and you still have winging, then I would focus on releasing/lengthening the tight muscles that are pulling your shoulder blade out of it’s appropriate position.

      Mark

  41. Hi Mark,

    What are your thoughts on weight-lifting or body-building while trying to fix a mildly winged scapula? My shoulders are not rounded at all and my winging isn’t severe. Are there any body parts (I assume other than legs) that I can continue to lift with while attempting to reverse my winged scapula? If so, would it benefit me to perform the winged scapula stretches and exercises before or after a weight-lifting or body-building workout? Thank you for posting these stretches and exercises!

    1. Hey Josh,

      I would encourage you to continue with your weight training… as long as you are consciously and successfully activating the right muscles to minimise your winging.

      If you find that your winging is more prominent with certain exercises no matter what you do, I would then minimise your exposure to these particular exercises and focus on the ones that you can control your scapula properly.

      I would do these exercises before your weight training as to prime and warm up the muscles that reverse winging.

      Mark

  42. Hi Mark,

    If I don’t do this workouts but I do workouts like Deadlift and Bent over row are they going to go away?. If not, can you tell me some back workouts that I can do instead of these ones?

    1. Hi Manvir,

      Is there a reason why you do not want to do these exercises?

      They serve as a foundation for your other exercises such as rows and dead lifts.

      Mark

      1. I feel like that it’s not going to work. But ll try to do them. Do they really go away tho? One of my friends had these Winged Scapula but he didn’t do any of this exercises, he just went in the gym and went away. Did anyone see any results by doing this exercises?

  43. hey Mark
    When I was a teenager I was wrongly practicing now I suffer from scapular winging , rounded soulders , forward head … andmy upper back is curved a little
    Should I fix them all at once or should I treat them in order? if yes give me an appropriate arrangement please .

  44. Thanks for the information, very good article!
    Any experience on having these symptoms as well as associated Lat muscle pain?
    Also, is there any way to incorporate a lacrosse ball or foam roller effectively?

    1. Hey Petie,

      If your shoulder stabilising muscles are not doing their job (which is quite common in winged scapula), then other muscles like your lats may be recruited to help stabilise the shoulder joint instead. This could potentially lead to pain in this region.

      You can foam roll the lats quite easily as shown below.

      Mark

  45. Hey Mark !
    Thank you for all this tips … well i have this problem of winging scapula and it makes my back looks worst even if i workout and have a muscles in my back . Can i do these exercises everyday ? And how long it takes me to fix it ? Thanks again

    1. Hi Amine,

      You can do these exercise everyday.

      If scapula winging is causing you issues, you really want to fix this problem first before you start working out as it can make the problems worse.

      Mark

  46. Hi Mark,

    I have scapular winging on both sides, but to different degrees, if I just do the exercises on both sides the same amount will it even itself out eventually?

    1. Hi Carra,

      These exercises would be a great start.

      You might also have other issues causing the imbalance (Rotated/tilted torso, rounded shoulders etc)

      Mark

  47. Great information. I’m going to start doing these exercise. I’ve always had winged scapula and I never knew it wasn’t normal until I took Kinesiology a couple semesters ago! I’ve had to wait until after I had [ C5/C6] disk replacement (I had a snow plow crash into my car while I was driving, so there was PT, surgery, and recovery) before I could start working on anything. Thanks for the great info!

  48. Hey Mark.
    I have a severe case of winged scapula it seems. Stronger than most things I find on the internet. I think this may be related to my size and weight. (196cm an only 66 kilos). Im going to the gym and trying to better my body on all levels, should i see a doctor about my scapula? Could there be anything so wrong that not even your tips can help? Or will this help me 100%? (dont wanna make anything worse either)

  49. Hi Mark. I’ve suffered with scapular winging for about 8 years now. At the time the doctor that originally saw me said that he was calling it shoulder dysfunction so he really didn’t know what it was.

    That said they were saying that they thought that my thoracic nerve was “asleep.” Is there true, real hope for me?

    Thank you!

    1. Hey Eric,

      Is there any reason why your long thoracic nerve would be injured/compressed? (Past injuries, traumatic accidents, etc)

      If not – it is likely that you just need to learn to activate the muscles the flatten the scapulae back onto the ribs.

      Mark

  50. Hi mark,
    thank you so much for posting this.
    I have one question.
    Im going to gym, and im doing once a week chest. Can i fix winged scapula if i do every day your program and once a week chest ?
    Thank you

  51. Hi Mark,

    I have winged scapula from doing push-ups and dips with bad form once I correct this. Will I ever be able to do strength training again with proper form or will my scapula re wing ?
    Thank you for this great article,
    Massimo

    1. Hey Massimo,

      Once you fix your winging, you can focus on your strength training again whilst making sure you are keep your scapula flat on your ribs.

      Mark

  52. Hi mark,Thank you about this information you write..
    Im 21 yrs old
    one year ago I have been doing surgery (biopsy) of Lymphocyte biopsy in my neck after-after the surgery- a month of resting I felt my shoulder movement is so bad and then I went to the doctor and he told me that I have a “winging scapula” due to the scratch in long thoracic nerve..
    in the right shoulder and its have little pain and make me embarrassing due to its a appearance my shoulder bone its very obvious.
    I wondering why my trapezius in atrophy case ? I mean (the trapezius) very small ! and my lat is too lose its mass but not like the trapezius what is the reason of ?
    I wonder what is the effect of Long thoracic nerve on this two muscles !
    and dose one year enough to fix it ?
    and what do you think if I goes to the surgery treatment ?
    its better than the exercises?
    it will be great to have a replay,,
    thank you.

  53. This was a great read! Just a couple questions though. I went through shoulder impingement 2 years ago. Stretched the pecs a lot, stretched internal rotators, performed external rotations and did a lot of pulling motions. The only pushing I did for a year was push-ups. The impingement got a lot better and so I incorporated more chest work, but no more than: 3sets of flat bench and dips, then 3 sets of overhead press and 3 sets of pushups…well now the impengment is back with severe winging mostly on the right side. So stretching my pecs and doing these releases/these excersises..how often should these be performed, sets and reps and also, what other back exercises can I do? along with any others I can perform to stay in shape without assiting in this shoulder problem. Also, should I only stick to push-ups from now on once I rehab this back to normal? it seems like no matter how little chest I do, my pecs grow really easy. Also, is it safe to do pull-ups and chin-ups? I live doing those

    Thank you!!!

    1. Hey Ricky,

      You can do these exercises 1/day.

      In terms of what exercises you can do whilst having shoulder pain… you pretty much can do everything as long as it is not causing your symptoms to worsen. Anything that doesn’t hurt you, is likely to help you more than anything.

      You can progress your push ups to very light weights with the dumbbells. You may need to keep your elbows closer to the sides of your body as you push through. This is to take some stress off the shoulder.

      Pull up and chin ups are fine as long as it is not causing more pain. Generally speaking, over head exercises cause more problems with shoulder impingement. Just be careful and listen to your body.

      Mark

  54. Hi Mark, I had shoulder surgery about a year and a half ago and ever since I’ve had a severe winged scapula. I’ve tried mostly everything from stretches, to serratus strengthening exercises but nothing has worked. I also feel that my trapezius muscle has stopped working entirely and I can’t even contract it during rows or shrugs. My scapula almost pops around when I retract, it’s very strange. I’m 17, so I feel that I shouldn’t be having some of these problems. If you could offer any imput as to how I should go about my winged scapula I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks. I also told my doctor and he was also very puzzled. He said with proper strengthening it should be fine, but I’ve been seeing a physical therapist for it for almost 2 months and it hasn’t changed one bit. Thanks again.

  55. Thank you so much for posting this information! I was carrying a five gallon bucket (full of water) to water some plants that the hose doesn’t reach. The next day, my shoulder blade ached terribly. It got worse over the course of several days. I saw my chiropractor three times last week, getting some relief but it still felt like my shoulder was protruding. Tonight, I finally decided to look at it with a second mirror. Whoa! Winged scapula, all right!

    I just went through the exercises and stretches, and now I am icing. My husband says it isn’t sticking out as much. I can’t thank you enough for providing this information!

  56. This is literally exactly what I have been looking for! I have a big mind-body disconnect and it has been very difficult to know whether I am activating the serratus anterior and if I am, am I doing it correctly? I have been in and out of PT for years with no luck, but your cues, pictures, and descriptions now give me the confidence to proceed with strengthening it correctly. Thank you so much!

  57. Hi,

    Whilst doing these exercises daily should I avoid any exercises? Also should I be focusing on pulling my shoulder blades back/down when sitting/standing or letting them hang neutral? Im pretty sure I have a winged scapula, is there anyway to make sure? I can see two lines which are the inside edges through my t-shirt, I also have a lot of right shoulder pain and it feels like my scalene muscles are tight. I’m in real need of help as I tried for a long time to correct this by rowing and doing serous exercises without really putting much effort into releasing pec minor etc

    Thanks for your great article

    1. Hey Lewis,

      Rowing might actually make your winged scapula worse!

      The key player is the Serratus Anterior muscle as this muscles causes the shoulder blade to hug the rib cage.

      When sitting, you want to aim to pull your shoulder blade DOWN and AROUND. (as opposed to down and in).

      Mark

      1. Hi again,

        Thanks for your response. So do you mean I should pull them down and protract them whilst sitting and standing? This sort of makes me round my shoulders?
        Thanks

        1. Hey Lewis,

          You want to tilt your scapula backwards (posterior tilt) and upward rotate your shoulder blade whilst keep the shoulders back.

          Mark

          1. thanks for your response again.. I’m sorry but I’m not getting it, how do I do all these things at once without causing my shoulders to round?

            thanks again

          2. Hi Lewis,

            Your shoulders will not round forward if you do the scapula movements as stated before.

            If they round forward, then it is likely you are not performing the right movements with your shoulder blade.

            Mark

  58. This is really nice of you to post for free!! As a aspiring physical therapist, it’s nice to see someone else trying to take away people’s pain. I have a quick question. When I look into the mirror, my traps are obviously not symmetrical. On the side that my scalpula is winged it drops down, what do yowe make of this?

    1. Hey Jon,

      If you are winged on that side, the scapula is in a position of medial rotation.

      This would make your Upper trapezius slope down on that side.

      Correcting this scapula position should improve your assymetrical shoulders.

      Mark

        1. Follow the exercises on this website. I had same problem as you for 4 years. Just found this site and fixed my issues. Awesome information

  59. Hi Mark,
    Thanks so much for these exercises.
    Do you have suggestions for how many sets / times per day we should be doing these?
    Thanks again

    1. Hey Matt,

      You can go through these exercises 1 to 2 times a week to start off with.

      As you get better, I would try to progress to every day.

      Mark

  60. hi mark

    Ive been trying to sort out a winged scapula for a long time, but when i try to do any of the exercises i am recommended, all i can feel is my scapula sticking way out of my back. when i follow the step above called “activating the serratus anterior”, no matter what i do, i just end up with my shoulder blade sticking way out of my back.

    i know that my trap, pec area and levator scapula are all very tight, i feel as if its impossible to get my shoulder into the right position because of this. what would you suggest? thanks

    1. Hello Winged Goblin!

      You might need to keep releasing/stretching those particular muscles first to help you get into a position where you can start to engage your serratus anterior muscle.

      If those muscles are tight, it places the serratus anterior in a stretched/inhibited position which will make it very difficult to even feel the contraction, let alone get it pulling the shoulder blade in the right direction.

      Once released, you can start to focus more on the activation part 🙂

      Mark

      1. i feel like the pec release method you described is going to help so i’ll focus on that for a while. thanks for replying, have a great day

  61. Hi Mark, I got serratus palsy due to parsonage-turner syndrome two and a half years ago, my serratus has been left paralysed until very recently where it has started waking up. How many times per day should I do the stretches and exercises?
    Can’t lift my arm vertical or anything yet, also my shoulder blade seems to pull right into the centre of my back when I try, not sure entirely what’s causing that though, could be overcompensation by other muscles.
    Thank you,
    Tom

  62. Hi Mark,
    I don’t think I have scapula winging but my right scapula does not come in life the left one when I pinch them together. The left one comes in to nearly straight but the right one stays 30 degrees out. Will these excersize help?

    1. Hi Kawser,

      Sounds like you may have an issue with your Rhomboid not being able to bring the right scapula back in line.

      You may also have an issue with tightness/hypertonicty with the serratus anterior muscles as well.

      Do you have a picture of it?

      Mark

  63. Thank you so much mark!!!
    I am getting this pain from last 1 week and it gets horrible at night. I am doing these exercise and i am getting relief , as the pain is reducing.
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Ravi,

      It depends.

      But it certainly is not an over night fix.

      It’s very hard to give a time frame (and that’s even if I assess you in person)

      Takes time, effort, consistency! Keep up the good work!

      Mark

  64. Mark,

    THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR!

    Thank you so much for posting it.

    I am so excited to start these exercises.

    I’ll keep you up to date!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *