What is serratus anterior?
The serratus anterior is a largely muscle attached to our ribs and hidden underneath the shoulder blade, it is remarkably easy for both patients and clinicians to forget about this vital muscle. This muscle starts from the inner edge of the shoulder blade and attaches to the ribs. It is also an important scapular stabilising muscle.
What does serratus anterior do?
Because serratus anterior has multiple attachment sites, roles of serratus anterior can be vary. The primary role of this muscle is to stablise the scapula while we are raising our arm. Serratus anterior muscle is also breathing accessory muscles, it will spread the ribs during inhalation and provide additional support to our rib cage.
How does serratus anterior cause neck pain?
Due to serratus anterior muscles’ attachments, if the muscle is tight or weak, our body will try to find an “alternative muscle” to accomplish the movement, and the upper trapezius or levator scapulae msucles are commonly be recruited. However, our upper trapezius or levator scapulae was not originally designed to stable our scapula. When excessive working load is been loaded inappropriately, these muscles will get tight and stiff and start irritating all structures including nerve endings and blood vessels close to its attachment.
How can we do for tight neck?
Our upper body was originally desinged to perform massive movements and avtivities, which means serratus anterior need large amount of movements to keep it’s muscle fibres active. If neck pain is caused by serratus anterior tightness, generating a protraction force may release tight serratus. Even though you can find many serratus anterior training videos on Youtube or just only need to ask Dr. Google, it is better to seek the guidance of a osteopath or a physiotherapist, who can identify the specific pattern of weakness that may be present and design an individualized exercise program to address it for further management.
Written by Dr. Wei ‘David’ Tai (Osteopath)