What is scapulothoracic bursitis?

A large amount of movement in the shoulder, approximately one-third, occurs between the scapula (shoulder blade) and the ribcage. There are fluid-filled sacs (bursa) between these two bones that cushion and reduce friction with joint movement. Snapping Scapula Syndrome, also known as scapulothoracic bursitis, develops from inflammation of the bursae as a result of an injury or repetitive use. This condition is more prevalent among athletes who perform repetitive shoulder actions in sports like basketball and volleyball, as well as workers who perform similar repetitive movements as part of their job duties. Previous injuries to the shoulder, such as muscle or ligament tears or shoulder dislocations, can also contribute to scapulothoracic bursitis. Dr. Answorth A. Allen, orthopedic shoulder specialist serving patients in Manhattan, New York City, Westchester, Long Island and surrounding areas, has the knowledge and understanding, as well as substantial experience in treating patients who have experienced scapulothoracic bursitis.

Snapping Scapula | Manhattan NY

What causes scapulothoracic bursitis?

Snapping Scapula Syndrome is caused by inflammation from repetitive shoulder movements. Occasionally, the muscles underneath the scapula degenerate from inactivity or weakness moving the shoulder blade closer to the rib cage. The friction that results from this bone-on-bone movement can cause this condition to develop.  Other potential causes of Snapping Scapula Syndrome include the following:

  • Trauma or injury
  • Inflammatory conditions, i.e. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Contour or alignment changes of the bones in the scapulothoracic joint
  • Sustained forward-flexed posture
  • Poor scapular mobility
  • Weight-training exercises seen in exercise programs such as CrossFit

What are the symptoms of scapulothoracic bursitis?

Pain with shoulder movement, especially when localized under the shoulder blade, is a common complaint with Snapping Scapula Syndrome. Other symptoms include:

  • Shoulder stiffness or tenderness
  • Painful snapping or grinding sensation in the shoulder
  • Shoulder instability or weakness
  • Occasionally a deformity of the scapula from a bone growth can be seen

How is scapulothoracic bursitis diagnosed?

To diagnose scapulothoracic bursitis, Dr. Allen will obtain a comprehensive medical history and thorough physical examination, including a range of motion assessment and evaluation for areas of pain and tenderness. Diagnostic testing, including x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be ordered to confirm the scapulothoracic bursitis diagnosis as well as identify any damage to the other structures within the shoulder.

What is the treatment for scapulothoracic bursitis?

Non-surgical treatment:

Scapulothoracic bursitis can be successfully treated with conservative therapies alone. A combination of rest, ice application, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can be used for pain management. If the pain and swelling are not relieved with oral medications, a corticosteroid injection directly into the shoulder may be recommended. A physical rehabilitation program with the goal of improving strength and range of motion may be prescribed by Dr. Allen.

Surgical treatment:

If a patient experiences more severe pain or inflammation, or if conservative therapy is unsuccessful, surgical intervention may be necessary. Dr. Allen may recommend an arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure involving a small camera (arthroscope) to visualize the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other structures within the shoulder. Any irregularities, such as bone spurs or tears, are removed and repaired with specialized surgical instruments. In the event of more severe or complex scapulothoracic bursitis, Dr. Allen may recommend open surgery. This surgical approach utilizes a slightly larger incision to better visualize the entire shoulder while completing the necessary revisions.

Scapula Injury Specialist

Do you perform repetitive shoulder movements? Athletes and young adults that participate in activities involving these kinds of movement are at an increased risk of developing inflammation in the shoulder, also known as snapping scapula syndrome. This condition is characterized by shoulder pain, instability, and a snapping or grinding sensation. Shoulder specialist Doctor Answorth Allen provides diagnosis and specialized treatment plans for patients in Manhattan, New York City, Westchester, Long Island and surrounding areas who have experienced these symptoms. Contact Dr. Allen’s team today!