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Scapula Winging and Apley Scratch Test


If you take a look at this article:


It describes a test one can do called the Apley Scratch Test. I have seen another article I can not find right now that said you should be able to use the hand coming over the should to grab the finger tips of the hand coming from underneath the opposite should.

So when I do this or the Apley test, the hand coming under causes the scapula to "wing out" - which I think is kind of normal. However I was wondering -- should I have someone press the scapula down when I do this to increase the flexibility of that muscle under tension or is this not a good idea...and if not, why?


With the Scratch test, you should not require any stabilization of the scapula. The Scratch test looks more at the internal rotation, extension, and adduction of the lower arm, and the external rotation, abduction, and flexion of the upper arm.

If your scapula is "winging" and preventing you from achieving maximal internal rotation then you may have a scapular weakness issue relating to the serratus anterior. All the Apley's test is meant for is a quick to screen for ROM deficits.


O.k. so this makes some sense...but could the "winging" be due to a lack of flexibility in the apposing muscle as apposed to a lack of strength in serratus anterior - and therefore having someone press the scapula down to stretch the apposing muscle would provide some benefit?


On the subject of the Apley Scratch Test... my right arm fails miserably from the lower position. What does this mean? Tight external rotators?


Generally someone who has tight pecs and lats are going to be in the slouched position. This inhibits and creates more of a demand on the SA muscle. So Having a tight chest can contribute. I wouldn't pinpoint it at the chest as a problem. Looking at the situation as a whole usually helps in the long run.

If its winging, it can't stablize itself upon your rib cage for the demands placed on it.


Grettiron, Failed lower position generally means lack of ROM into internal rotation, extension, and/or adduction. This can be due to muscular length issues or a host of other mobility deficits. IMO, the Apley's Scratch test is a quick and VERY general test to show overall shoulder mobility and can help guide you in a direction to find more specific limitations. To try and find specific limitations from the test is not in your best interest.

So for the example of failed lower position, if you do not want to get more specific, I would just say to work on your shoulder ROM and mobility into internal rotation, adduction, and extension.

mmllcc, as for the winging and if you should hold the scapula down to stretch it, I don't feel that is your best option. Without testing you myself, it is impossible to give an exact reason why you are winging, but generally it is a weakness in serratus and scapular retractors and I would rather address that than try and increase mobility/stretch in the manner you are stating. Stretching would be beneficial for pec minor and other surrounding musculature, but IMO it is more beneficial to strengthen the musculature that will help hold the scapula against the rib cage and not have an external force causing that position.


Thanks for the reply LevelHeaded.


I have the same problem as OP, winging when I do the apley scratch test.

I guess it’s from using the computer mouse too much in a somewhat elevated position, since it’s mainly in my right shoulder/scapula.

I haven’t been able to fix it yet…is it most likely to be serratus anterior weakness with push-up plus as the treatment?