Snapping Scapula Syndrome

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An Overview on Snapping Scapula Syndrome
(Scapulothoracic Bursitis)

The shoulder blade (scapula) is responsible for a large amount of shoulder and upper body movement. Shoulder blade motion is designed to be fluid and pain-free because of a fluid-filled sac known as the scapulothoracic bursa. This bursa aids in shoulder blade movement against the rib cage. When the bursa becomes inflamed from acute injury or repetitive overuse, patients complain of pain and snapping of the scapula with motion. This condition is known as scapulothoracic bursitis, or snapping scapula syndrome. Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California orthopedic shoulder specialist, Dr. Jervis Yau has the experience necessary to restore function to patients with snapping scapula syndrome.

Scapulothoracic bursitis is most commonly associated with young, active patients involved in sports that require overhead activity. The condition may also develop in certain patients as they age or in patients with underlying anatomic abnormalities.

Snapping scapula syndrome occurs when the muscles located underneath the shoulder blade become weak, leading to impingement of the scapula and rib cage.

Scapulothoracic Bursitis Symptoms

Many patients affected by scapulothoracic bursitis report pain, snapping and grinding sensation along the upper border of the scapula as it moves along the ribcage. Certain patients may experience a “bump” on the under surface of the scapula. This condition can be quite painful if not treated.

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Scapulothoracic Bursitis Diagnosis

After a thorough medical review and physical examination, Dr. Yau will perform a variety of diagnostic tests to diagnose snapping scapula syndrome. X-rays will provide a detailed view of the shoulder’s bony structures, while an MRI scan will provide a detailed view of the soft structures.

Scapulothoracic Bursitis Treatment

Non-Surgical

The majority of patients suffering from scapulothoracic bursitis will be treated through conservative measures. Non-surgical treatments include rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injection, activity modification and physical therapy. Physical therapy is designed to strengthen the scapular muscle in order to alleviate symptoms.

Surgical

Dr. Yau may recommend surgery if conservative measures fail to alleviate symptoms or if a soft tissue or bony mass is the cause of pain and dysfunction. In these cases, Dr. Yau will perform an arthroscopic procedure to remove the inflamed bursa, bone spurs and/or other abnormalities. The removal of these defects reduces inflammation and returns full range of motion to the shoulder joint.

For more information on snapping scapula syndrome, or for treatment plans designed to treat scapulothoracic bursitis, please contact the orthopedic office of Dr. Jervis Yau, shoulder specialist in the Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California area.

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