Critical and Theoretical Perspective on Scapular Stabilization: What Does It Really Mean, and Are We on the Right Track?

Phys Ther. 2016 Aug;96(8):1162-9. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20140230. Epub 2016 Feb 4.


Stabilization exercises have been a focus and mainstay of many therapeutic and performance training programs in the past decade. Whether the focus is core stabilization for the spine or scapular stabilization, clinicians and trainers alike have endorsed these programs, largely on the basis of conceptual theory and anecdotal experience. The notion that an unstable scapula is related to shoulder dysfunction and pathology is well accepted, but is it accurate? The aim of this perspective article is to challenge the concept of scapular stabilization through the application of biomechanical and motor control constructs. The objectives are to critically examine current beliefs about scapular stabilization, to discuss definitions of stabilization and stability in the context of the scapulothoracic region, and to evaluate key evidence regarding scapular stabilization and scapular dyskinesia. Several new approaches that may affect the understanding of normal and atypical scapula motion are explored. Finally, a historical analogy is presented and future research and clinical directions are suggested. The aims are to lead readers to the essential concepts implied on scapular stabilization, to increase the critical thought process in rehabilitation practice, and to suggest some open topics to be explored in future research.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Dyskinesias / physiopathology*
  • Dyskinesias / rehabilitation
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Scapula / physiopathology*