Scapular Dyskinesis

By leading shoulder consultant Mr Ian Bayley

A frequent trigger for Scapular Dyskinesia or Dyskinesis (winging scapula, shoulder blades that wing outwards or shoulder blade malfunction) is,

  • A shortened collarbone
  • Hunched shoulders
  • Lifting weight in ‘bad form’ 
  • Congenital

A broken collarbone shortened by as little as one millimetre can throw abnormal strain on the shoulder blades and other elements in the kinetic chain such as spine and pelvis, predisposing the patient to shoulder malfunction and future discomfort, injury and even disability.

The fragile relationship between muscle and bone framework can alter with devastating effect. Stronger muscles change role with weaker sets and instead of pulling the shoulder blades to the chest wall, muscles behave abnormally, pushing the shoulder blade(s) outwards. This is known as 'winging', and can also adversely affect pelvic and spinal alignment weakening posture, shoulders fall forward and if left unchecked, chronic or intense pain ensues with a life left compromised by an altogether avoidable condition.

"Our understanding of shoulder problems has increased in the forty years of my involvement in the field", says Ian. "We have come to understand the importance of the shoulder blade, how commonly it is compromised, and how resistant to surgery it can be." 

So how do we tackle such an important and potentially life-changing condition?

Scapula Dyskinesis comes in varying degrees. Its cause and affect little understood by practitioners, leaving its affects often undiagnosed and overlooked. Albeit a problematic condition to correct, it is treatable and we need to be able to treat all degrees of severity, not just the critical cases that come into my clinic.

One of the complications in treating the condition is the lack in the scapular (shoulder blade) of good mechanoreceptors - sensory receptors that transmit sensory information rapidly to the brain and the means by which the brain senses the position of shoulder joints/scapula.

Patients simply don't know if their scapula is winging, added to which the brain readily accepts the abnormal position and movement as normal.

For the vast majority of patients their symptoms are declared phantom or 'all in the mind', with physiotherapy becoming the first line of combat. For the majority, corrective exercise alone does not solve the problem, how can you correct something that the brain accepts as normal! With surgery very much a last resort and no promise of success, patients often fall through the health system disappointed and in despair.

We need new ways to tackle this very common condition. I am very excited to be involved in the development of AngelMed’s Scapular Gilet having had first-hand experience of their Clavicular Gilet for broken collarbones. I believe its unique ability to reset muscle memory and reprogram the brain to change habit  could hold the answer.

For me it obeys the crucial principle of supporting the three pillars or better, stepping stones - namely the pelvis, spine and shoulder blades – upon which effective shoulder function ultimately depends on and it delivers this in a way acceptable to the wearer.

This is still a medical brace, but components are cleverly concealed in an everyday looking gilet and since long-term wear may be necessary, adopting this design avoids any feeling of self-consciousness.

Mr Ian Bayley is a specialist shoulder consultant practicing at Circle Health Group, Clementine Churchill Hospital, Harrow and No 75 Harley Street, London. 

Mr Bayley was one of the iconic four who established shoulder surgery as a specialism in the UK. He was appointed as Clinical Director of the Spinal Injuries Unit at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, when it opened in 1980. He also directed and established the Complex Shoulder Surgery Unit at Stanmore. 

Instrumental in the early development of the International Shoulder Conferences and of the European Shoulder and Elbow Society, he took on the role of National Clinical Chair of the NHS Orthopaedic Services collaborative and various subsequent service redevelopment roles on the national stage.

Having travelled and lectured widely on the International stage, he is a past Presidential Guest Speaker of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, a past President of the British Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons and by invitation an honorary, lifelong member of the Society.

His experience is therefore based firmly at “the coal face” of clinical practice. His clinical interests lie in the management of scapular dyskinesis, complex pain states, conservative treatment of clavicle fractures and shoulder instabilities together with rotator cuff pathologies correction, primary and revision shoulder replacement.