Scapular Dyskinesis: Can You Still Get Shoulder Pain without Symptoms?

Aug 12, 2017
Researchers found that athletes with scapular dyskinesis are more susceptible to shoulder pain compared to those without the condition. This is according to a recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Before the study, it was unclear that whether scapular dyskinesis increases the risk of shoulder pain in athletes who do not have symptoms.

How Important is the Scapula?

Our scapula plays an important role to have our shoulder function well. In order for our shoulder joint to work normally, our scapula should be properly aligned in several planes of motion of our upper extremity.

For athletes, they can perform good overhead throws if their shoulder functions optimally, and a normal scapular function is necessary for it to happen. Scapula control and positioning allow for optimal positioning of the humerus in relation to the glenoid when it comes to transferring power from the core to the distal upper extremity.

What is Scapular Dyskinesis?

Scapular dyskinesis happens when the scapular motion, physiology or mechanics is compromised. Simply put, it refers to the dysfunctional movement of the scapula.

This occurs in many different shoulder problems. It is an important indicator of an underlying shoulder problem and a guide for rehabilitating the shoulder.

For most people with this condition, the scapula moves in abnormal directions because of the irregularities of the shoulder. However, there are also some cases of asymptomatic scapular dyskinesis, which can increase the risk of injury.

Causes and Risk Factors

Scapular dyskinesis can be caused by the following:

  • The muscles that control the scapula become weak, imbalanced, tight or detached.
  • Injuries occur to the nerves that supply the muscles.
  • Injuries occur to the bones that support the scapula or within the shoulder joint.

The risk factors may include:

  • Extreme, repetitive overhead movements such as in throwing sports, tennis and volleyball
  • Overuse fatigue
  • Injury to any structures of the shoulder
  • Direct trauma
  • Muscle strain
  • Unbalanced weight training


Someone who has scapular dyskinesis may experience these symptoms:

  • Scapular pain and tenderness while doing overhead actions or carrying heavy objects with the arm at the side
  • Snapping or popping sensation when moving the shoulder
  • Weakness when using the shoulder and arm
  • Asymmetrical posture
  • Scapular winging
  • Unstable shoulder

While some people experience symptoms, other people, especially athletes, experience scapular dyskinesis without symptoms.

In the recent BJSM study, review and meta-analysis were conducted to determine whether scapular dyskinesis in asymptomatic athletes increases the risk of getting shoulder pain.

A total of 419 athletes were included in the study. 35% of the athletes experienced shoulder pain during the follow-up, and 25% of the athletes without scapular dyskinesis experienced symptoms. The presence of scapular dyskinesis at baseline indicated an increased risk of shoulder pain by 43% over a 9 to 24-month follow-up. The researchers concluded that athletes with shoulder pain have a 43% greater risk of developing shoulder pain than those without scapular dyskinesis.

How is Scapular Dyskinesis Treated?

Generally, the initial treatment of scapular dyskinesis includes hands-on work, stretching and strengthening exercises, and modification of the activity that caused the problem. Active rest may be necessary for the shoulder to recover.

It is also often recommended to see a physiotherapist to fix the condition. Many cases of scapular dyskinesis can improve rapidly with physiotherapy rehabilitation. The end goal is to restore proper function, strength, balance and movement patterns. At Happy Physio, our Perth physiotherapists are dedicated to helping you meet these goals.

Book an appointment with us on 92727359 today!



  • Hickey D, Solvig V, Cavalheri V, Harrold M, Mckenna L. Scapular dyskinesis increases the risk of future shoulder pain by 43% in asymptomatic athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2017 Jul 22. pii: bjsports-2017-097559. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097559.