Scapulothoracic Bursitis (Snapping Scapula Syndrome)

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Scapulothoracic Bursitis (Snapping Scapula Syndrome) Overview

Snapping scapula syndrome is a condition of the shoulder that involves the scapula (the shoulder blade), and the ribcage. Over one third of total shoulder movement occurs between these two body parts. Fluid-filled sacs, known as bursa, are an important part of this motion and help achieve smooth, frictionless movement. Snapping scapula syndrome, also known as scapulothoracic bursitis, is described by a grating, grinding, popping or snapping sensation of the scapula on the back side of the ribs. Austin, Texas shoulder specialist, Dr. Jeff Padalecki specializes in a number of shoulder injuries, including scapulothoracic bursitis.

This injury occurs when the muscles underneath the scapula become weak causing the scapula to become very close to the rib cage, eventually causing rubbing or bumping during arm/shoulder movement. Bursitis occurs when the bursa sacs that lubricate the area between the shoulder blade and scapula become inflamed.

This injury is most common in young, active patients who participate in repetitive overhead activity or the throwing motion. However, there are other factors that may also lead to this condition, including a former shoulder separation, arthritis, or a tear in one of the ligaments or muscles that surround this region.

Scapulothoracic Bursitis Symptoms

The symptoms of snapping scapula vary based on what is actually causing the problem. Patients typically describe a snapping, grating or grinding sensation along the edge or underside of the scapula as it moves along the ribs. Some patients may feel a “bump” on the scapula from a bony mass. Scapulothoracic bursitis can be painful, especially with overhead movements due to the inflammation of the bursa. Most patients complain of a constant, dull ache.

Scapulothoracic Bursitis Diagnostic Testing

Various diagnostic tests may be performed after a thorough physical examination by Dr. Padalecki. These help to rule out soft-tissue and bone disorders, which may cause impingement near the shoulder blade and/or ribcage. In most cases, Dr. Padalecki will rely on an X-ray to assess the bony structures of the joint. In some cases where an X-ray is not offering a good view, he will order an MRI to help confirm his diagnosis.

Scapulothoracic Bursitis Treatment

Non-Surgical

In a majority of cases, surgery is not necessary and the course of treatment can include physical therapy for scapular muscle strengthening and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. In more severe cases, corticosteroid injections may be administered for longer-term pain relief and a reduction in the inflammation of the bursa.

Surgical

If the non-surgical measures fail, surgery is an option and can be preferred when a soft-tissue or bony mass is found to be the cause of the injury. Arthroscopic surgery is a viable option to remove the bursa, bone spurs or irregularities, thus reducing inflammation and returning range of motion to the affected area.

Post-Op Instructons

Patients will be put on a strict rehabilitation program following arthroscopic surgery. Dr. Padalecki has detailed guidelines and expectations for each of his patients. Therapy is a vital part of the overall recovery following a shoulder injury.

For more information on scapulothoracic bursitis (snapping scapula syndrome), or for additional resources on shoulder injuries and treatment for shoulder pain, please contact the orthopedic office of Dr. Jeff Padalecki, shoulder specialist in Austin, Texas.

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