Scapular winging: anatomical review, diagnosis, and treatments

Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2008 Mar;1(1):1-11. doi: 10.1007/s12178-007-9000-5.


Scapular winging is a rare debilitating condition that leads to limited functional activity of the upper extremity. It is the result of numerous causes, including traumatic, iatrogenic, and idiopathic processes that most often result in nerve injury and paralysis of either the serratus anterior, trapezius, or rhomboid muscles. Diagnosis is easily made upon visible inspection of the scapula, with serratus anterior paralysis resulting in medial winging of the scapula. This is in contrast to the lateral winging generated by trapezius and rhomboid paralysis. Most cases of serratus anterior paralysis spontaneously resolve within 24 months, while conservative treatment of trapezius paralysis is less effective. A conservative course of treatment is usually followed for rhomboid paralysis. To allow time for spontaneous recovery, a 6-24 month course of conservative treatment is often recommended, after which if there is no recovery, patients become candidates for corrective surgery.