Scapular Stability: The Foundation for Your Neck and Shoulders

The term “scapular stability” is becoming more and more popular, but what does it mean and why is it important? The scapula is also known as the shoulder blade, and has a very large role in terms of supporting the shoulder joints and aiding in proper posture and support for the body. The reason this is so important is that when you learn this technique you are able to keep your shoulders and neck in a safe and healthy position.

Often, when we talk about proper posture you may hear the phrase to set your shoulder blades in place. The term “scapular squeeze” is often used to describe this setting of the shoulder blades, and it refers to engaging a group of muscles to help get the shoulders and shoulder blades into a good position. The concept is to set up a solid foundation for the shoulders, trunk and head and neck complex. The group of muscles that comprise the scapular stabilizing muscles are: rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius, serratus anterior, and latissimus dorsi. These muscles are all considered your back muscles.

What does this scapular squeeze actually look and feel like? When you perform a scapular squeeze it will look like the shoulder blades pinching together and downward, with the scapulae pinned in against the ribcage (rather than winging out). You will feel the muscles in between the shoulder blades gently engage and activate. This technique creates space and more of an open feel through the chest and front of the shoulders.

This also allows for the shoulder to sit in the proper position in the shoulder socket. With this proper posture you have a more advantageous position for the body in terms of proper alignment and posture, as well as a strong foundation on which to move from. If the scapular stabilizers are not engaged, then there can be excessive movement or over-compensations, as well as improper alignment and poor postural support. This can lead to injury in the shoulders or neck pain, for example.

Scapular stability is the phrase for engaging the scapular muscles of the back and these are the foundation for your neck and shoulders. This is a great technique and a great place to focus one’s efforts for strengthening. The method of engaging these muscles and performing a scapular squeeze can be a super technique as a daily habit. This can keep your shoulders and neck pain-free now and into the future.  

A physical therapist can evaluate your current strength in these particular muscles and determine the need for specific strengthening. Then they can set up a particular strength training exercise program for you to improve and achieve a solid foundational support. They will teach you the proper technique for the scap squeeze as well as progressions of it. If you have ever had neck or shoulder pain, or you have it in your family this is a great preventative approach. Even if you’ve never had issues or pain, a solid foundation of strength will guide you in the right direction.