Snapping Scapula

What is Scapulothoracic Bursitis? Is it the same as Snapping Scapula Syndrome?

What is Scapulothoracic Bursitis?

Scapulothoracic bursitis, also called snapping scapula syndrome, is a condition of the shoulder that involves the shoulder blade (scapula) and the ribcage. A large amount of movement in shoulder, over one-third, involves these two body parts. Fluid-filled sacs, between the shoulder blade and the ribs, called bursa, are responsible for the smooth movement of the joint. When the bursa become inflamed from an injury or from overuse, scapulothoracic bursitis, or snapping scapula syndrome can occur. Dr. James Mazzara, orthopedic shoulder specialist serving Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities has extensive experience in treating this and many other shoulder conditions.

Scapulothoracic bursitis is often seen in younger patients who are active in sports or participate in work which requires repetitive overhead movements. Prior injuries of the shoulder, such as dislocation, separation, ligament or muscle tear, can also contribute to this condition.

What are Common Symptoms of Snapping Scapula Syndrome?

Patients will experience a variety of symptoms based on severity of the injury. Scapular pain can occur when the muscles under the shoulder blade become weak, causing the bone to move closer to the ribcage. The movement eventually causes bumping, or rubbing against the bursa, causing them to inflame. Snapping scapula can also be a result of muscles in the front of the shoulder being much stronger than those in the upper back which attach to the shoulder blade (scapula).  This is commonly found in individuals who do weight training, strengthening exercises and cross fit training.

Symptoms include:

  • Painful clicking, snapping or grinding sensation in the scapula area
  • Pain under the shoulder blade with movement
  • On occasion, a bump or lump from a bone growth on the scapula can be seen
  • Swelling in the shoulder area
  • Stiffness and/or tenderness in the shoulder joint
  • Instability or weakness

How is Scapulathoracic Bursitis Diagnosed?

Dr. Mazzara and his orthopedic team will conduct a thorough exam of the shoulder area including range of motion and areas of pain when the patient raises or lowers the arm. A history will be taken of the patient’s activities, prior injuries and symptoms. An X-ray and an MRI and possibly a CT scan may be needed to completely assess the shoulder area and to confirm Dr. Mazzara’s diagnosis.

Are you experiencing snapping scapula symptoms?

There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Mazzara:

You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Mazzara.

You can schedule an office consultation with Dr. Mazzara.

Request Case Review or Office Consultation

How Does Dr. Mazzara Treat Snapping Shoulder Syndrome?

Patients in the Manchester, South Windsor, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities will find that in a majority of cases, surgical intervention is not required. Course of treatment may include physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support the scapula and stretch the muscles in the front of the shoulder, on the chest. Some patients benefit from corticosteroid injections and may be administered for longer-term pain relief to reduce the inflammation in the bursa.

Can Snapping Shoulder be Treated Surgically?

In severe cases and if non-surgical treatments do not help, arthroscopic or open surgery may be recommended by Dr. James Mazzara. When a bony mass, or soft tissue damage are found to be the cause of the injury, minimally invasive surgery can remove the bursa, bone spurs or other irregularities. This results in reducing inflammation and returning patients to their full range of motion. Physical therapy following arthroscopic surgery is recommended and will be part of the rehabilitation program recommended by Dr. Mazzara.

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. James Mazzara serving Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities.

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