Pain between the shoulder blades is common. Doctors call this discomfort interscapular pain. Individuals with shoulder blade pain usually have a dull, aching, or shooting pain between shoulder blades in the upper back.
Most often, shoulder blade pain is nothing to worry about. In few cases, it can be a sign of a more serious condition.
14 Possible Causes for Pain Between Shoulder Blades
Certain types of exercise increase the risk of upper back injury. Like, throwing a ball overhead, lifting weights, and doing a few swimming strokes can strain the muscles between the shoulder blades. Regularly doing these movements over time is the main cause of muscle strain.
Some other symptoms of muscle strain and pain between shoulder blades include a feeling of weakness in the area, swelling, and muscle spasms. Individuals with pain between the shoulder blades can treat this mild stress with ice, rest, and pain relievers. Most mild strains should heal within a couple of weeks.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce pain and swelling. It is necessary to try to avoid activities that strain the back muscles. Applying an ice pack every few hours for 20 minutes may also reduce pain and swelling. Gently moving the shoulders at regular intervals can help ease any stiffness.
2- Wrong Postures
How one sits or stands can cause pain between the shoulder blades. Some conditions that put pressure on the muscles of the upper back include:
- Sitting at a desk all-day
- Using an uncomfortable chair
- Leaning on the laptop for a long time
- Crossing legs while sitting down
These all postures can severely cause a dull ache between the shoulder blades. Gently stretching the upper back muscles can help ease the pain. People can try rotating the shoulders back and forth to reduce stiffness. Joining the hands behind the back and gently pulling the arms down may also help.
3- Excessive Stress
Due to stress, the muscles of the body become tense. The neck and shoulders are a common area of tension, which can lead to pain between the shoulder blades. Tension and stress can also cause headaches if the shoulder muscles remain under tension for a long period. Finding out the causes of stress, having a good supportive network, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly can all reduce stress.
Scoliosis is a type of condition in which the spine curves to one side. A person’s shoulders or hips may look slightly uneven, or one shoulder may stick out.
Scoliosis doesn’t necessarily cause its symptoms, but some individuals with the condition may experience back pain. The exercise can help strengthen the muscles of the upper back and shoulders, which can reduce muscle strain and pain.
Conditions like trauma can result in pain between the shoulder blades usually after trauma usually include acromioclavicular joint dissociation and rotator cuff tears. A shoulder separation is different from a shoulder dislocation which is more frequently felt in the shoulder joint.
Arthritis in the neck or even the ribs sometimes can be the main reason for interscapular pain. Like disc disease, arthritis in the neck can cause pain between the shoulder blades or other areas even in the absence of any neck pain.
7- Lifting or carrying
Sometimes carrying or lifting anything heavy can strain your upper back. People should take care to use safe lifting methods when pushing, pulling, or lifting objects. Carrying a shoulder bag places a load on the shoulders, straining the muscles and creates pain between the shoulder blades. Carrying heavy shopping bags may also strain the muscles of the arms and upper back.
Individuals need to avoid carrying too much load on the shoulders by choosing backpacks with two straps to make the weight evenly and carry only essential items. If important, an individual can make more than one trip to avoid carrying too many heavy bags at one time.
8- Muscle injury
Injuries to the upper back muscles can cause pain between the shoulder blades. Injuries can occur from exercising, lifting something heavy, or falling. A tear can cause and may give severe pain to your back.
The rotator cuff muscles connect the arm to the shoulder blade. Injury to one or more of these muscles can cause upper back and shoulder pain. Such types of injuries may also create difficulty in moving the arm or shoulder.
For treatment of mild or moderate muscle tears incorporate rest, applying ice packs, and doing strengthening exercises. In few cases, doctors can prescribe steroid injections to you to reduce the inflammation. For about 20% of rotator cuff injuries, surgery is necessary to reattach the tendon.
9- Heart Attack
Yes, a heart attack can be a reason for pain between the shoulder blades. A heart attack, mainly a heart attack in women, does not always begin with chest pain.
In one study looking at people with heart attacks who had pain, 3% of the pain was confined to the area between the shoulder blades. This pain is usually distressing and may be accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, or a headache.
Everyone must be familiar especially with how the symptoms of a heart attack in women differ from those in men. Symptoms of heart disease in women are often unusual and unclear, which is attributed to the high mortality rate of women who have had a heart attack.
10- Myofascial pain syndrome
Myofascial pain syndrome is a long-term health condition that causes pain in specific muscle groups. Differ from other chronic pain conditions, pain does not occur throughout the body.
A main point in the muscle will specifically cause severe pain in the area. In the upper back, it can cause pain in the muscle groups, pain between shoulder blades, around the spine, neck, and shoulders.
Myofascial pain syndrome treatment may include laser therapy, steroid injections, changes in lifestyle, and massage.
Lung cancer, especially Pancoast tumors, can cause pain between the shoulder blades by pressing on the nerves near the top of the lungs. Other cancers that cause pain in this area include esophageal cancer, mesothelioma, lymphoma, and liver cancer.
Sometimes cancers that move into the bones in the neck, like breast cancer, can also cause pain between the shoulder blades, sometimes without any other symptoms.
The gradual breakdown of joints over time can lead to osteoarthritis. Symptoms include stiffness, pain, and swelling, which can make it difficult to move the joints.
Injury to joints or overuse may increase the risk of osteoarthritis. Some people have jobs that require repeated overhead or heavy lifting. This work can lead to osteoarthritis in the shoulder joint and upper back pain later in life. Treatment for Osteoarthritis and test include X-rays, MRI, Blood Test, Joint fluid analysis.
Shingles are also the reason for pain between the shoulder blades. can cause pain almost anywhere in the body, depending on which nerve roots the virus affects, and may occur well before the rash appears. The pain may be most pronounced in the area between your shoulder blades, but tends to focus on one side or the other of the body.
14- Pulmonary Embolism
Pulmonary emboli are also the reason behind pain between shoulder blades occurs when clots in the legs (deep venous thrombosis) separate and travel to the lungs. Some risk factors for pulmonary emboli include medical conditions such as cancer, long travel by car or plane, prolonged bed rest, pregnancy, and recent surgery.
A pulmonary embolus is usually preceded by symptoms of a blood clot, including pain, redness, and swelling in the legs. The pain of Pulmonary emboli is usually sudden in onset is sharp, and can be associated with serious shortness of breath, although sometimes people notice only mild discomfort.
When you should see a Doctor for Pain Between Shoulder Blades
If your pain is severe, unusual, or doesn’t go away, you should see a doctor. Pain is a sign that something may be wrong. Your condition may not be serious, but if it is annoying you in any way, you should get it checked out.
If in case your shoulder blade pain is accompanied by few symptoms, it could mean that you may have a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. The treatment for pain between shoulder blades will depend on the cause and severity of your condition. and recovery time will differ from person to person
Get help right away if you have pain between your shoulder blades and have any of these symptoms:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- excessive sweating
- pain, swelling, or redness in your legs
- coughing up blood
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- sudden difficulty speaking
- loss of vision
- paralysis on one side of your body
- loss of consciousness
Home Remedies to Reduce Pain Between Your Shoulder Blades
Exercise- Exercise and Physical activity is important and integral part of your overall health, but exercise can also strengthen areas in your back, which can help with the pain. Pushups, pullups, and situps, and other physical stuff are good exercises to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles.
Stretching- Yoga and other stretching techniques can improve circulation to your muscles and joints, leading to better mobility and pain relief.
- This shoulder stretch can sometimes help:
- Cross one of your hands over your body.
- Use your other hand to pull the elbow of your outstretched arm toward your chest.
- Hold this stretch for about 10 seconds.
Maintain a good Diet- Specific foods can create inflammation in your body that may make your symptoms worse. You should avoid processed foods, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Choosing foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, may also help.
Hot or cold therapy- Applying hot and cold compresses between your shoulder blades may help reduce the discomfort. Usually, it is best to use them for 15 minutes at a time every four hours.
Take Rest- Many times, you need rest to recover from your shoulder blade pain, especially if it is the result of an injury.
Therapies- Some sort of therapies like massage or physical therapy can provide relief in many cases, especially if the pain is caused by overuse or injury to your muscles or joints.
Treatment for Pain Between Shoulder Blades
The treatment for your pain will depend on the underlying cause of your symptoms. If you want to get rid of the pain between your shoulder blades, it is very important to first determine the exact reason for it.
When pain between the shoulder blades is caused by muscles it can be challenging to treat, but different types of nerve blocks performed under ultrasound guidance have shown notable promise in recent years.
Medications for Pain Between Shoulder Blades
Specific medications can help reduce the pain and discomfort between your shoulder blades. These may include anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB). Often, steroids are given as a pill or injection to help with and get rid of pain and swelling. Muscle relaxants and even antidepressants are prescribed for specific conditions involving the shoulder blades.
Surgery for Pain Between Shoulder Blades
Well in very rare cases your doctor may suggest surgery in case if your shoulder blade pain is severe or caused by a treatable injury. This may include removing scar tissue or repairing tendons in your shoulder or upper back.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, however, 90 percent of individuals with pain between shoulder blades easily respond to non-surgical options like rest, exercise, and medication.
Prevention Methods for Pain Between Shoulder Blades
These are the possible methods you can use to reduce pain between the shoulder blades-
- Maintain a good posture, keep the muscles in the shoulders and upper back strong, and avoid heavy lifting can only help you to prevent pain between the shoulder blades.
- Individuals who sit at desks for long periods of time may get benefit from a comfortable chair to prevent upper back pain.
- Always try to keep the spine in its natural position without bending the shoulders or pushing the neck forward.
- Only regular exercise can help an individual to maintain a normal weight, which automatically reduces strain on the back.
- Stress and tension can cause create and tension in the upper back and shoulders. Yoga or stretching exercises can help ease tight muscles.