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What Causes Pain Between My Shoulder Blades

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Pain Between Shoulder Blades: Causes And Treatments

Relieve pain between your shoulder blades

Dr. Bhavik Sheth, PT, DPT, CSCS, SFMA

Dr. Bhavik Sheth, PT, DPT, CSCS, SFMA is a physical therapist and the co-founder of the Elite Movement Initiative, a physical therapy group. He earned his D…

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A dull ache between the shoulder blades, often referred to as interscapular pain, is fairly common. In most cases, this pain is a result of muscle strain brought on by poor posture or by sitting and standing in an uncomfortable position for a long period of time. For example, a day spent hunched over the computer can often result in pain in this area.

However, shoulder blade pain may not always be related to tendon, joint, muscle, or bone injuries. In some cases, interscapular pain can be caused by something more serious, such as a heart attack or gallbladder disease.

In our post, we outline some possible causes of pain in the upper back. Plus, we discuss possible treatments you can do at home to find relief, and when you should contact your doctor.

The Universal Guide To Upper Back Pain: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know Straight From The Experts

In This Article: | | | | | | | |

Upper back pain can be a little like salsa or Buffalo wingswe know, bear with us.

  • First, theres mild: Just a twinge of the tastebuds if were talking sauce, and slight pain thats easy to ignore when it comes to the upper back.
  • Then theres medium/moderate: Now were getting somewhere. Youre gonna feel it, but usually only if you take a deep breath or sneeze or move too quickly.
  • Finally, weve got spicy: the equivalent to pain so intense you feel the burn from doing the simplest daily tasks, or even nothing at all!

Upper back pain is usually caused by soft tissue injuries, such as sprains or strains, muscle tension caused by poor posture, or looking downward for long time periods. Photo Thing is, upper back pain affects everyone differently. Partly thats because there are so many possible reasons for your upper back pain. The first step in solving your upper back pain problem is understanding why its happening. To do that, start with learning your anatomy.

You Were In A Car Accident

If youre able to walk away from a rear end crash and feel OK, you may decide not to get checked out by a doctor. However, whiplasha violent backward-and-forward jerk of the headcan create tears and inflammation of the muscles and ligaments in the neck and upper back, explains Dr. Chang. See your doctor if you suspect whiplash, especially if you have other symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, and pain in your neck.

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What Is The Purpose Of The Trapezius

This large muscle helps you move your body and have good posture. Healthcare providers divide the trapezius into three areas. Each area helps you with a specific kind of movement. Together, the three parts of the trapezius help you move your head, stand up straight, bend or twist your torso and raise your arms. The areas of the trapezius are:

Upper trapezius: This is the smallest section of the trapezius. It starts at the base of your neck and extends just across the tops of your shoulders. It helps you:

  • Lift your arms.
  • Rotate, extend, turn and tilt your neck and head.
  • Shrug your shoulders.

Middle trapezius: This area of the muscle sits just below the upper trapezius. It goes all across your shoulders. The middle traps is responsible for:

  • Helping you pull your shoulders back and extend your arms behind you.
  • Stabilizing your shoulders when you move your arms.

Lower trapezius: The lower traps starts around your shoulder blades and come down into a V shape in the middle of your back. This part of the trapezius:

  • Allows you to bring your shoulders down away from your ears .
  • Stabilizes your spine during certain movements, including twisting and bending.

What Causes Pain Between Shoulder Blades After Eating

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Back pain after eating is likely caused by referred pain. Pay attention to other symptoms that may help your doctor diagnose your condition. If your back pain is caused by GERD or ulcers, you may need to make lifestyle adjustments. Those can include changes to your diet, reducing your weight, exercise, or medications.

Furthermore, how do you relieve pain between shoulder blades? Certain medications can help relieve pain and discomfort between your shoulder blades. These may include anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen . Sometimes, steroids are given as a pill or injection to help with pain and inflammation.

Keeping this in consideration, what causes upper back pain between shoulder blades?

The rhomboid muscles in your upper back connect the inner edges of your shoulder blades to your spine. A rhomboid strain is a stretch or tear of these muscles. A rhomboid muscle strain or spasm is usually caused by overuse of your shoulder and arm.

Why do I get pain in my left shoulder after eating?

The main symptom of pancreatitis is pain in the upper left abdomen or middle of the abdomen, which often radiates through to the back. The pain may become worse after eating or drinking, particularly if the food has a high fat content. Some patients complain of pain in their back or below the left shoulder as well.

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When To See A Doctor

If you are having pain that is constant, severe and just doesn’t feel right, you should visit your doctor right away. Pain is a strong indication that there is something wrong. While it may end up being nothing serious, if it does not go away or bothers you, you should get it check anyway.

If the pain between shoulder blades is accompanied by specific signs and symptoms, it could mean you need immediate and prompt medical treatment. Seek immediate assistance if you experience upper back pain with any of these symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Breathlessness or shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Swelling or pain in legs
  • Lightheadedness
  • Paralysis of body on one side
  • Sudden onset of speaking difficulty

How Should I Sleep To Relieve Upper Back Pain

Side and back sleeping are often the best positions to rest in if you are dealing with upper back pain.

When side sleeping, it is important that your mattress not be too firm, otherwise pressure points can form near the joints. A soft to medium firmness typically works best for side sleepers. When opting for a softer mattress, be sure the mattress does not cause excessive sinking. If the hips and shoulders too far into the bed, the spine may bow, leading to tension in the back.

When looking for a mattress for back sleepers, choose something with a medium to medium-firm comfort level tends to work best. This firmness will keep body weight evenly distributed, so no one area of the body sinks too far into the bed. This will keep the spine natural and alleviate tension in the back.

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Could Sleep On Your Side Cause Shoulder Pain

If your mattress is too firm, sleeping on your side can Cause shoulder pain, resulting in inflammation, joint, and structural damage.

If you sleep on your side, use moderate mattress stability to properly cushion the bodys pressure points and avoid any potential pain.

You can also try having a soft mattress topper to your Present mattress. Also, put a pillow between your knees and then use a thick cushion beneath your head to maintain your spine neutral.

Why Is My Shoulder Blade Hurting

Causes and Treatments of Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades

It is very common for a person to experience a musculoskeletal issue that causes shoulder blade pain. Overuse, strains, sleeping akwardly, and rotator cuff issues all fall into this category. These problems are often related to pain in the muscle groups surrounding the shoulders, including some of the arm muscles.

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When To See A Doctor Or Call 911

You should see a doctor if your back pain has lasted for longer than 2 weeks with home treatment.

See a doctor immediately if you’re experiencing:

  • New loss of bladder or bowel control
  • New numbness in legs or numbness that’s getting worse
  • New weakness in legs or weakness that’s getting worse
  • New or increased back pain with fever
  • Painful urination, or other symptoms of a urinary tract infection
  • Pain that is getting worse or pain you can’t manage at home
  • Your back pain coincides with chest pain or other symptoms of heart attack like sweating shortness of breath nausea or vomiting pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in your back, neck, jaw, upper belly, or one or both shoulders or arms feeling dizzy or lightheaded or a fast or uneven heartbeat.
  • You are experiencing signs of severe injury to the spine after a fall, such as being unable to move part of the body, severe back or neck pain, weakness or tingling in the arms, legs, chest, or belly.

What You Can Do

Often you can stay home: There are many effective home remedies for upper back pain relief.A typical episode of muscle strain usually lasts only a few days, explains Dr. Chang. Staying comfortable during this time is key. He suggests resting, icing, and taking anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen.

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What Is The Rhomboid Muscle

The rhomboid muscles are a large group of muscles in your upper back. Theyâre made up of the rhomboid major and the rhomboid minor.

These and other muscles form the shoulder girdle that holds your shoulder blade and shoulder stable. The rhomboid muscles also:

  • Pull back your shoulder blade
  • Lift and rotate your shoulder blade
  • Help you move your arm overhead
  • Help you throw
  • Help you rotate your torsoâ

How Long Will I Need Chiropractic Care

Pain Between Shoulder Blades When Slouching

Some patients see quick improvement and then immediately discontinue their care. They often suffer a relapse since muscles and soft tissues have not had time to fully heal. Others discover that degenerative changes to their spines make periodic check-ups a worthwhile investment. Well make recommendations, but how long you benefit from chiropractic care is up to you.

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How Acid Reflux Gerd And Chest Pain Are Related

While most people use acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD interchangeably, they have specific definitions. Here is a quick definition of terms:

  • Acid reflux: a reaction that occurs when the sphincter muscle at the lower end of the esophagus relaxes uncontrollably, which makes stomach acid leak into your esophagus.
  • GERD: A chronic, severe form of acid reflux.
  • Heartburn: a burning pain usually felt in the chest area, a symptom of both acid reflux and GERD.

Aside from heartburn, GERD and acid reflux share many similar symptoms like nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, increased abdominal pain, neck pain, and an acidic sensation in the throat and mouth.

Acid reflux will usually progress to GERD given enough time and/or lack of treatment. Because of the intensity of heartburn associated with GERD, pain may radiate from the referred area of the esophagus to your lower back.

Typically, this back pain is triggered by GERD itself, but there are other symptoms like shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing or speaking, or swelling and inflammation that can also manifest. Patients may also experience vomiting or experiencing a feeling of regurgitating food. Even if heartburn itself isnt that severe, repeated, and consistent long-term heartburns may develop into chronic pain in the chest and back area.

Here are three acid reflux and GERD related triggers for back pain:

Can Pain Between Shoulder Blades Be Caused By Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a fairly common condition in the United States, with over 15 million Americans experiencing heartburn each day. While acid reflux has a variety of symptoms, it rarely progresses to anything an antacid cant fix. But for serious cases of acid reflux, it can manifest in some extremely painful and difficult to manage symptoms, most of which arent typical of your usual episode of heartburn.

So can acid reflux cause symptoms like acute pain between your shoulder blades? It can, but it usually means its progressed beyond simple heartburn and into Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD. While it can require more treatment than acid reflux, the chest and back pain it causes can be managed.

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Structures That Lie In The Area Between The Shoulder Blades

The space between the shoulder blades consists of multiple formations. Pain can derive from any of these structures, and understanding where it is coming from is crucial for treatment. Facilities that lie in the area between the shoulder blades include:

  • Skin
  • Muscles: There are multiple muscles in this area, including middle and lower trapezius and rhomboid muscles. Muscle strain is the most common cause of pain between the shoulder blades. Its symptoms include aching , soreness, and muscle inflammation.
  • The thoracic spine
  • Thoracic aorta: A segment of the aorta, the main artery of a human body that supplies oxygenated blood to the circulatory system. When the aorta gets ruptured, it causes a life-threatening situation. The symptoms accompanying thoracic aorta rupture include sharp and severe pain in the upper-middle back. If you experience this, calling an emergency right away is mandatory, as surgery is required to fix a ruptured aorta.
  • Heart: Part of the heart is also located in the area between the shoulder blades. Pain deriving from the heart is often a symptom of a heart attack. If you experience shortness of breath and chest pain, call emergency immediately.
  • Part of the esophagus
  • A portion of the lungs

Pain between shoulder blades may start in any of these structures or may begin in other regions as nerves transmit pain signals.

You Feel Pain In The Side Too

Pain Between Shoulder Blades | Overstretched Tissues

Anyone whos had a kidney stone knows theyre quite agonizingand they may cause upper back pain, says Dr. Ghannad. Its unlikely that this is the only symptom youll notice though. You may also feel severe pain in your side and back below your ribs, the Mayo Clinic notes. Discomfort while peeing or red- or brown-hued urine may be other clues. The best advice? If pain is severe and persistent, its a good idea to be evaluated by a physician, says Ghannad.

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Pain Between The Shoulder Blades: Should I Worry

The most common causes of upper back pain are muscle strain, injury, poor posture, and other lifestyle habits. Sometimes, however, upper back pain can result from underlying conditions that are more serious.

In this article, you will learn about a number of possible causes, symptoms, and treatments for this type of pain.

How Do You Differentiate Between Joint Pain And Muscle Pain

Joint pain and muscle pain are the two most common causes of upper back pain:

  • Joint dysfunction: People who are in pain due to joint dysfunction either have had an injury or are suffering natural deterioration as they age. The cartilage or capsule of a joint, for example, could tear. It’s probable that if the vertebrae are weakening, a degenerative disk disease is present as well.
  • Muscle pain: However, muscle pain is nearly always caused by overuse injuries or lack of strength. Strain and tightness are especially common in the major upper back muscles that join the shoulder blade and rear of the rib cage. This type of pain is exacerbated by poor posture.

Risk factors for upper back pain include:

  • Sitting for lengthy periods in front of a computer
  • Poor muscle tone

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Possible Causes Of Back Pain Between The Shoulder Blades


A common cause of back pain

Weight management, physical activity, stretching, and medications

Herniated Disk

Though they occur most often in the lower back, herniated disks in the neck can cause pain between the shoulder blades

Most people can treat at home with exercises and over-the-counter pain medications. Medical help may be necessary in some cases.

Biliary Colic

This is a type of radiated pain a gallstone blocks a bile duct and causes a sharp upper back or rib pain that is felt in the right shoulder.

See a medical doctor for treatment of gallstone and pain

Many separate muscles come together at the shoulder blades, making that area prone to strain or injury.

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  • Being careful of carrying too much weight in a shoulder bag
  • Quitting smoking

Treatment and Causes of Different Types of Pain

Initially, you need to make sure your back pain is not caused by simple conditions like muscle strains due to poor standing and sitting positions, faulty executions of physical activities, or excessive weight lifting.

Of course, other causes include aging and constricted ligaments. These issues can be alleviated by simple massages or a change of habits. If the pain persists, however, then it may be time to consider a more serious condition as the main problem.

Here’s how to troubleshoot your pain and find out what the cause might be.

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When Back Pain Is A Symptom Of Lung Cancer

Research suggests that the time between the onset of symptoms and a diagnosis of lung cancer is around 12 months. This is often because a person does not recognize the symptoms, or because they hope that they’ll go away. Back pain is one such symptom.

It is not uncommon for people to have back pain with lung cancer, or even to have back pain as their first symptom. In fact, there are certain defining symptoms that point to cancer as the cause of back pain.

Chief among them are the location and types of pain, which may be quite different from your typical, chronic backache. All told, around 25% of people with lung cancer will report back pain as a symptom at some point in their disease.

This article looks at how back pain is linked to lung cancer, and how this pain differs from other kinds of back pain. It also explains why early treatment for back pain is so important.

Verywell / Hugo Lin

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