The scapula is a flat bone in the back of the shoulder that is often referred to as the shoulder blade. Pain in this region is often the result of tight muscles or injury to the rotator cuff -- a small grouping of muscles that allow you to move your shoulder in multiple directions. Exercises can be used to improve flexibility and strength.
Retraction and Protraction
Retraction and protraction are motions of the shoulders. By alternating back and forth between these movements, you can both stretch and strengthen your scapular area. Begin by sitting up tall in a chair or standing with your feet hip-width apart. Either extend your arms straight in front of your body or bend your elbows and move your arms to your sides with your palms facing forward. Keep your arms steady as you pinch your shoulder blades together. Only go as far as you can and hold for a full second. This is called retraction. Now reverse the direction and move your shoulders as far forward as possible. Hold again for a second and continue to alternate back and forth.
Pull aparts require the use of a rubber resistance band. They strengthen the posterior deltoids which are found on the back of the shoulders, as well as the rotator cuff. To begin, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the band out in front of your chest with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Keeping your arms straight, pull the band in both directions until it is right in front of your chest. Slowly move your arms back to the starting point and repeat.
The shoulder stretch is performed from a standing or seated position and it helps lengthen the muscles that surround the scapula. Start by moving your right arm across the front of your chest and hook the underside of your left arm around your right elbow. Your right arm should be straight at this point and your left elbow should be bent. Slowly apply inward pressure with your left arm and feel your right scapula area being stretched. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, slowly release and repeat on the other side.
Warrior II is a yoga pose that stretches the shoulders and chest in one motion. To begin, space your feet about 4 feet apart, turn your right foot out 90 degrees and move your left in at a slight angle. Slowly bend your right knee until your thigh parallels the floor and raise your arms out to your sides with your palms facing down. Form a straight line from one hand to the other and actively move your arms laterally as if you were being pulled in two directions. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds and slowly release. Reverse your feet and repeat the pose.
A snow angel strengthens the deltoids and rotator cuff. This exercise is performed from a face-up position on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat and arms out to your sides. Position your arms flat on the floor with your elbows bent and palms facing up. Steadily move them toward each other behind your head in an arcing motion. Once you have gone as far as possible, move them back to the starting position and repeat.