Scapular position: the validity of skin surface palpation

Man Ther. 2002 Feb;7(1):26-30. doi: 10.1054/math.2001.0405.


The assessment of the resting position of the scapula forms part of the examination of upper quadrant posture. The purpose of this study was to determine if surface palpation is a valid indicator of actual scapular position. Twelve embalmed shoulders were examined and the actual location of three bony scapular landmarks and three bony thoracic landmarks were compared with surface palpation of these locations. The results, based on the upper value for a distance (with 95% confidence), suggested that the difference between the surface location of the root of the spine of the scapula, the acromial angle and the inferior angle would be less than 0.67 cm, 0.98 cm and 0.46 cm respectively from the centre of the bony locations. The difference between the twelfth thoracic spinous process (SP), the SP corresponding with the root of the spine of the scapula, and the SP corresponding with the inferior angle and the surface points would be 1.46 cm, 1.09 cm and 1.01 cm respectively. The results of this study suggest that surface palpation of scapular location is a valid method for determining the actual location of the scapula. The findings also suggest that surface palpation can determine the location of thoracic landmarks, which may serve as reference points for scapular position.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cadaver
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ligaments, Articular
  • Male
  • Palpation / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Scapula*
  • Shoulder Joint
  • Skin*