Snapping Scapula Syndrome

The scapulothoracic joint is the area where the shoulder blade—also called the scapula—glides along the thorax, or chest wall. In people with snapping scapula syndrome, movement within this joint produces sounds of grating, grinding, thumping, or popping. This condition results from soft tissue and bone issues in the scapula and chest wall. For example, it often occurs when the soft tissue between these two areas becomes inflamed as a result of repetitive shoulder motion (e.g., from pitching a baseball). Alternatively, it may result from muscle atrophy, which causes the scapula to move in closer proximity to the rib cage, increasing the amount of contact. Other causes include changes in the contour and alignment of the bones in the joint (perhaps due to a bone fracture) or the presence of bone abnormalities (such as curves, bumps, or ledges) on the top edge of the scapula. When such abnormalities occur, bursa can form and become inflamed, causing bursitis. The condition may present with or without pain. Treatment of snapping scapula syndrome may involve administration of anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen, application of ice, rest, physical therapy, cortisone injections, and in extreme cases where all other treatments have failed, surgery.