Scapular positioning and movement in unimpaired shoulders, shoulder impingement syndrome, and glenohumeral instability

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 Jun;21(3):352-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2010.01274.x. Epub 2011 Mar 8.


The purpose of this manuscript is to review the knowledge of scapular positioning at rest and scapular movement in different anatomic planes in asymptomatic subjects and patients with shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS) and glenohumeral shoulder instability. We reviewed the literature for all biomechanical and kinematic studies using keywords for impingement syndrome, shoulder instability, and scapular movement published in peer reviewed journal. Based on the predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria, 30 articles were selected for inclusion in the review. The literature is inconsistent regarding the scapular resting position. At rest, the scapula is positioned approximately horizontal, 35° of internal rotation and 10° anterior tilt. During shoulder elevation, most researchers agree that the scapula tilts posteriorly and rotates both upward and externally. It appears that during shoulder elevation, patients with SIS demonstrate a decreased upward scapular rotation, a decreased posterior tilt, and a decrease in external rotation. In patients with glenohumeral shoulder instability, a decreased scapular upward rotation and increased internal rotation is seen. This literature overview provides clinicians with insight into scapular kinematics in unimpaired shoulders and shoulders with impingement syndrome and instability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Movement*
  • Patient Positioning
  • Range of Motion, Articular*
  • Scapula / physiology*
  • Shoulder Dislocation / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / physiopathology*