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Clinical assessment of the scapula: a review of the literature

Abstract

Scientific evidence supporting a role for faulty scapular positioning in patients with various shoulder disorders is cumulating. Clinicians who manage patients with shoulder pain and athletes at risk of developing shoulder pain need to have the skills to assess static and dynamic scapular positioning and dynamic control. Several methods for the assessment of scapular positioning are described in scientific literature. However, the majority uses expensive and specialised equipment (laboratory methods), making their use in clinical practice nearly impossible. On the basis of biometric and kinematic studies, guidelines for interpreting the observation of static and dynamic scapular positioning pattern in patients with shoulder pain are provided. At this point, clinicians can use reliable clinical tests for the assessment of both static and dynamic scapular positioning in patients with shoulder pain. However, this review also provides clinicians several possible pitfalls when performing clinical scapular evaluation. On the basis of its clinical relevance, its proven reliability, its relation to body length and its applicability in a clinical setting, this review recommends to assess the scapula both static (visual observation and acromial distance or Baylor/double square method for shoulder protraction) and semidynamic (visual observation and inclinometry for scapular upward rotation). In addition, when the patient demonstrates with shoulder impingement symptoms, the scapular repositioning test and scapular assistant test are recommended for relating the patients’ symptoms to the position or movement of the scapula.

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