Shoulders and Mid Back Pain

Video by Dr. Tanner Tunksey

Our scapula or shoulder blades play a major role in shoulder health as well as mid back health. How the shoulder blades are positioned during certain movements can give insight into problem areas throughout the shoulders, mid back, and upper back. As I tell my patients in St. Louis Park, if our shoulder blades are not moving correctly, this can lead to an increase in shoulder pain, mid back pain, and even neck pain. One common condition in the shoulder blades is scapular winging, which can lead to pain and dysfunction in the areas mentioned above. The “winging” of the scapula is most often due to weakness in a muscle called the serratus anterior, whose main job is to keep the scapula tightly against the rib cage. If this muscle is weak or under active, this can cause laxity in the scapula and winging through the shoulder blades.

A push-up plus is an exercise often used to strengthen the serratus anterior when scapular winging is present. This is a simple exercise that focuses on FULL motion of the scapula, through scapular retraction and protraction. Moving the shoulder blades into full protection causes activation of the serratus anterior, and consistently moving the shoulder blades through these motions consistently will strengthen this muscle and decrease scapular winging over time.

“After performing the push-up plus exercise with the PPGRD for 2 weeks, the serratus anterior muscle power was increased, the pain score was decreased, and the absence of scapular dyskinesis was confirmed.”

This movement is performed by getting into a push-up position. Begin by dropping down into the bottom of the push-up position. This will naturally cause the scapula to move into retraction. When you push back up into the starting position, think about pushing the floor away from you and spreading the shoulder blades apart as much as possible (this is the “plus” aspect of the push up plus). This can be done in a traditional push up position, or done on the knees if the movement needs to be regressed. This can be done for 10-12 repetitions with great form, 2-3 times per week.

Give this movement a try! Here’s to healthier shoulders!


Yoo W. G. (2016). Effect of the push-up plus guide and resistance device (PPGRD) on the serratus anterior during push-up plus. Journal of physical therapy science, 28(11), 3241–3242.

Our Message

When you are looking for a Chiropractor near you that you can trust, choose one who will not only get rid of your back pain, neck pain, or headaches but who will also guide you to living a healthier lifestyle to keep you out of pain. Our St. Louis Park Chiropractors located in the West End, near the corner of MN-100 S & Lake Rd./Westside Dr., are here to teach you that taking care of your mental health and getting the proper nutrients are just as important as the chiropractic adjustment to stay healthy.