Does SICK Scapula Equal Pain?

Scapular dyskinesis (aka SICK scapula syndrome) is an alteration or deviation in the normal resting or active position of the scapula during shoulder movement. This observation of “abnormal” or “erratic” movement is often associated with pain.ย โ‰But does scapular dyskinesis actually cause a painful shoulder? Does SICK scapula equal painย โ‰

A recent study in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Medicine set to find that out. They looked at 135 participants, in which approximately half had painful shoulders and the other half had non-painful shoulders. They had two experienced clinicians determine if a shoulder demonstrated scapular dyskinesis or not. And can you guess what they found?

โ€ผThey found that there were NO significant differences in the prevalence of SICK scapula between the group with shoulder pain and the group without shoulder pain.โ€ผ

Does sick scapula equal pain

The implication of these findings is that the presence of scapular dyskinesis does not necessarily mean that it will be the cause of your shoulder pain. It also means that the presence of SICK scapula may NOT be a relevant impairment for those with shoulder pain and may actually represent a NORMAL movement variation.

READ: Evidence-Based Shoulder Exercises



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This is different than looking at scapular positioning while performing exercises to try and recruit the scapular stabilizers (i.e. serratus anterior). In that sense, scapular position is used as a sign of muscle function/recruitment during exercise, not necessarily as a test to diagnose pain or pathology.

โœ…MAIN POINT: Humans are not robots, and we are NOT programmed to all move the same! While we might like to categorize an “optimal” form of movement, it is unrealistic to expect EVERYONE to move the same way when our anatomy is so uniquely individualized! SICK scapula does NOT equal pain!




Plummer, Hillary A., et al. โ€œObservational Scapular Dyskinesis: Known-Groups Validity in Patients With and Without Shoulder Pain.โ€ Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, vol. 47, no. 8, 2017, pp. 530โ€“537., doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.7268. (Link here)

  • matt
    Posted at 10:06h, 25 April Reply

    correct name of journal please

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 15:28h, 28 April Reply

      Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy

  • mp
    Posted at 11:08h, 25 April Reply

    this also is not news…. Kibler acknowledged this and discussed it in detail in the 2013 consensus document. It is found at the end of article. I suggest you read all of that. You are correct in what you write here but Kibler’s points are much more complete view of the issue.

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 15:29h, 28 April Reply

      Of course, we are writing for the general pop. Appreciate your comments!

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