The effect of long versus short pectoralis minor resting length on scapular kinematics in healthy individuals

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2005 Apr;35(4):227-38. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2005.35.4.227.


Study design: Two-group comparison.

Objective: To compare scapular kinematics during arm elevation between groups distinguished by pectoralis minor resting length.

Background: Studies have demonstrated that individuals with subacromial impingement have altered scapular kinematics, such as loss of posterior tipping and increased internal rotation. One proposed mechanism for these alterations is an adaptively short pectoralis minor. This anterior scapulothoracic muscle may impact normal scapular kinematics if adaptively short.

Methods and measures: Fifty volunteers without shoulder pain were divided into long or short groups according to normalized pectoralis minor resting length. An electromagnetic motion capture system determined the angular orientation of the scapula, humerus, and trunk during arm elevation in 3 separate planes. Groups were compared for 3-dimensional scapular orientation relative to the trunk at arm elevation angles of 30 degrees, 60 degrees, 90 degrees, and 120 degrees, using a mixed-model analysis of variance (ANOVA).

Results: There were statistically significant interaction effects between group and arm elevation angle for scapular tipping in all planes of arm elevation, with the scapula for the short group staying anteriorly tipped at higher angles. There was also a significant interaction for scapular internal rotation at lower arm elevation angles in the coronal plane only, with individuals with a shorter pectoralis minor demonstrating a more internally rotated scapula.

Conclusions: The group distinguished by a short pectoralis minor demonstrated scapular kinematics similar to the kinematics exhibited in earlier studies by subjects with shoulder impingement. These results support the theory that an adaptively short pectoralis minor may influence scapular kinematics and is therefore a potential mechanism for subacromial impingement.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Male
  • Pectoralis Muscles / physiology*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Rotation
  • Scapula / physiology*