Snapping-Scapula Syndrome: What Exactly Is It?

If one of your shoulders feels weak and painful as well as makes strange sounds whenever you move your arm, you might think that you broke it. You may actually have an orthopedic problem called snapping-scapula syndrome. Snapping-scapula syndrome, or washboard syndrome, can be painful and annoying to the people it affects. Without treatment, your symptoms may become worse. Learn more about snapping-scapula syndrome and how you can treat it below.

What's Snapping-Scapula Syndrome?

Although snapping-scapula syndrome is a relatively common condition, not many people know about it. Washboard syndrome affects the muscles and sacs of fluid that cushion and separate your shoulder blade (scapula) from your rib cage. The sounds you hear when you move your arm or flex your shoulder blade are symptoms of the two types of bones rubbing together, or when the sacs of fluid become inflamed from friction. The noises can be very audible when they occur.

The syndrome usually affects athletes and people who work in repetitive job settings or anyone who injures their shoulder blade or rib cage. Some individuals experience the syndrome if they have poor posture or use the wrong techniques to practice sports. These types of problems can aggravate, weaken, or wear down the tissues in your shoulder. 

Treating washboard syndrome now can get you back on track to good health.

How Do You Treat Snapping-Scapula Syndrome?

The first thing you can do is see a doctor to confirm your condition. A doctor will most likely take x-rays of your shoulder, arm, back, and chest to make a proper diagnosis. If you do have the syndrome, ask a physician to refer you to a physical therapist (PT) for treatment. Although medications can help control your pain, they may not improve the functions of your shoulder or alleviate your other symptoms. PT can help you do both.

A physical therapist will generally have you do exercises that strengthen your shoulder, reduce the inflammation, and restore flexibility in your tissues. The treatments may include water therapy, light weight training, or range-of-motion exercises. You may even wear a sling or brace to stabilize your shoulder at home. The main goal of PT is to restore as many of your shoulder's natural functions as possible. 

After treatment, you can protect your shoulder by taking breaks during work or sporting activities. If your shoulder relapses, inform your physical therapist right away. 

For more information about snapping-scapula syndrome, contact a physical therapist today.