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Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2005 Aug;20(7):700-9.

Three-dimensional scapulothoracic motion during active and passive arm elevation.

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Rehabilitation Sciences Biomechanics Laboratory, Drexel University, 245 North 15th Street MS 502, Philadelphia, PA 19102-1192, USA.



Scapulothoracic muscle activity is believed to be important for normal scapulothoracic motion. In particular, the trapezius and serratus anterior muscles are believed to play an important role in the production and control of scapulothoracic motion. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of different levels of muscle activity (active versus passive arm elevation) on three-dimensional scapulothoracic motion.


Twenty subjects without a history of shoulder pathology participated in this study. Three-dimensional scapulothoracic motion was determined from electromagnetic sensors attached to the scapula, thorax and humerus during active and passive arm elevation. Muscle activity was recorded from surface electrodes over the upper and lower trapezius, serratus anterior, anterior and posterior deltoid, and infraspinatus muscles. Differences in scapulothoracic motion were calculated between active and passive arm elevation conditions.


Scapular motion was observed during the trials of passive arm elevation; however, there was more upward rotation of the scapula, external rotation of the scapula, clavicular retraction, and clavicular elevation under the condition of active arm elevation. This was most pronounced for scapular upward rotation through the mid-range (90-120 degrees) of arm elevation.


The upper and lower trapezius and serratus anterior muscles have an important role in producing upward rotation of the scapula especially throughout the mid-range of arm elevation. Additionally, it appears that capsuloligamentous and passive muscle tension contribute to scapulothoracic motion during arm elevation. Assessment of the upper and lower trapezius and serratus anterior muscles and upward rotation of the scapula should be part of any shoulder examination.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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