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What Causes Pain Between Shoulder Blades

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One of the common health conditions that will make most of us worry is pain between the shoulder blades. Shoulder blades pain, also known as interscapular pain, refers to physical discomfort, aching, and soreness around the shoulder blades. To efficiently deal with the shoulder blades pain, it is vital to know its underlying cause. This article will discuss some common symptoms, causes, and treatments for pain between shoulder blades.

Do You Have Shoulder Blade Pain

It is important to understand that there are many different types of shoulder pain. There is shoulder pain that occurs on the front of the shoulder, on the back of the shoulder, and between the shoulders. Experiencing the symptoms of pain between the shoulder blades, otherwise known as interscapular pain, can range from mild discomfort to debilitating and concerning. It can also lead to right shoulder pain or left shoulder pain.

Pain between the shoulder blades

To determine the severity of the condition, the source of the pain must be identified. The purpose of this article is to explore two common musculoskeletal causes of pain between shoulder blades, as well as mention other conditions that may cause pain between shoulder blades.

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Lower back pain can be a symptom of cancer of the colon, rectum, or ovary that has metastasized into surrounding regions .

Throughout the back, tumors in the spinal column may cause back pain from expansion of the bone or from weakening the bone.

This in turn can cause spinal fractures, compression of the nerves, or spinal instability. Unlike occasional muscle pain, this causes tenderness and discomfort in the bones .

When the pain is felt between the shoulders, it may be a sign of esophageal cancer or lung cancer . Liver cancer has also been known to cause radiated pain in the back .

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Pain Between Shoulder Blades: Causes And Treatments

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.

Muscles In The Upper Back

Health Advicer

Having a basic knowledge of the muscles in the upper back can help you define and understand your pain better.

Your upper back supports a lot of the weight of your body, allowing you to sit upright, stand up straight, cough, breathe, and perform a variety of movements. Your back muscles work in harmony to allow you to twist, bend over, reach over and turn your head, among many other movements you perform every day. However, there are many layers of muscle groups in your back. A simple categorization of them is as follows:

  • Superficial muscles. These muscles are located closer to the surface, and you may be familiar with some of their names. These include the lats , the traps , rhomboids, and levator scapulae, responsible for controlling your shoulders and arms.
  • Intermediate muscles. These are located deeper down and between your shoulder blades, helping your ribcage expand and contract as you breathe.
  • Intrinsic muscles. These are core muscles that live on either side of your spine, helping you maintain your posture and stabilize your spine. They play a role in essential movements such as rotating, flexing, and extending your back.

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Questions Your Healthcare Provider May Ask

You’ll likely be asked many of these questions:

  • Which shoulder blade hurts? Right, left, or both?
  • How long has it hurt?
  • Did it come on gradually or suddenly?
  • Have you recently changed your exercise routine?
  • Do you take part in activities that often cause scapula pain? Examples are tennis, golf, swimming, basketball, badminton, and racquetball.
  • Do you sleep on the same side the pain is on?
  • How would you describe your pain?
  • What makes the pain worse?
  • What makes the pain better?
  • Do you smoke or did you in the past?
  • What other symptoms have you had?

Important symptoms to mention include:

  • Shortness of breath

These scans allow your healthcare provider to see what’s going on inside your body. Some show bones while others show organs and other soft tissues.

Does Anxiety Cause Back Pain

Adults tend to carry stress in their shoulders. When we are anxious, these muscles tense and put pressure on the back, which can lead to pain. Feelings of emotional stress often lead to chronic pain in the shoulder blades. This is because emotional anxiety often affects the nerves and muscles that run through the neck and upper back. Anxiety or psychological stress has a profound impact on a persons physical symptoms, says Dr. Bhavik Sheth, Physical Therapist. It is very common for neck and shoulder pain to be worse at times of high stress, and less symptomatic at times of leisure or pleasure.

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How Is Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades Diagnosed

Typically, your healthcare provider does a physical exam and takes a careful history to diagnose interscapular pain. A patients history can diagnose many causes of shoulder blade pain. However, the physical exam alone cannot diagnose the cause of pain between shoulder blades.

The following are some questions that a healthcare provider may ask:

  • How severe is the pain?
  • What makes the pain worse or better?
  • Is the pain dull, aching, or burning?
  • Have you experienced any injury or trauma?
  • Do you have any family history of heart disease?
  • Have you ever smoked?
  • How the pain starts gradually or suddenly?

You should see your doctor if you have shoulder blade pain accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath

Why Does The Middle Of My Back Hurt When I Walk

What Causes Shoulder Blade Pain and How to Relieve It

Sports injuries, poor posture, arthritis, muscle strain, and car accident injuries are some of the causes of middle backpain. Lowerbackpain is more common than middle backpain due to the fact that the thoracic spine does not move as much.

However, it is a common cause of back and neck pain. There are a number of factors that contribute to the development of pain in the middle back.

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When To See The Physician:

  • If your arm will not raise
  • If your shoulder joint is deformed
  • If there is swelling or significant bruising around the arm or joint
  • If the pain between shoulder blades increases when resting or at nighttime
  • If the pain is accompanied by fever, warmth or redness

I hope this ultimate guide to pain between shoulder blades is helpful for you.

When Should You Worry About Upper Back Pain

If you spend any extended time hunched over a computer or phone, chances are youve experienced some form of upper back pain.

While this part of the back is less susceptible to injury than the lower or middle back, upper back pain still affects nearly one in 10 men and one in five women.

And with a range of symptoms, pain levels, and causes, its not always clear when to see a doctor.

Most cases of upper back pain can be managed at home with over-the-counter pain medication, heat or ice, exercise, and improvement of posture.

However, certain symptoms in conjunction with upper back pain may indicate a serious medical issue that requires immediate attention from a healthcare professional.

In this article, Ill detail the symptoms and potential causes of upper back pain.

Then Ill break down the potential signs that upper back pain could be something serious and when to see a doctor.

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How To Adjust Your Posture

For starters, sit actively, not passively, says Louw. By sitting forward on your seat and staying upright, youll avoid relaxing into a poor posture. Make sure youre sitting on your two butt bones and are actively using your core to sit up straight, chest tall, with shoulders rolled down and back, away from your ears. Also, keep your head over your shoulders, not in front of them, Louw says.

Improving your work setup to make it more ergonomic will also help adjust your posture. According to Dr. Baxi, your computer screen should be at eye level and your keyboard close enough that you dont have to reach for it. Your elbows should flex about 120 degrees.

Upper Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades: Is It Serious

Pain under left shoulder blade â enhanced

This is for our readers who treat pain patients

Claire Sissons

Medical News Today

Poor posture, injury, or problems with the spine can all lead to upper back pain. A common cause of pain between the shoulder blades is muscle strain.

Treatments for mild upper back pain include stretching exercises and pain relievers. Some cases of pain between the shoulder blades are preventable.

Someone with underlying spinal problems may need advice from a doctor or physical therapist to reduce pain and discomfort.


Injuries to these muscles can cause upper back pain. The feeling can be a dull ache or a sharp pain.

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Am I Likely To Get Back Pain

Several factors can increase your chances of having upper and middle back pain. Among them:

  • Age.Back pain starts for most people in their 30s or 40s, and itâs more common the older you get.
  • Being out of shape. The stronger the muscles in your back, shoulder, and abdomen, the lower your chance of injury.
  • Weight. If you carry extra pounds, you put more strain on your back.
  • Underlying conditions. Diseases such as arthritis and cancer can cause back pain.
  • Smoking. Smokerâs cough can strain your back. And if you smoke, you may be slower to heal, which can make your back pain last longer.

Manage Your Back Pain And Improve Your Spinal Health At The Spine And Rehab Group

Acid reflux can cause chest and back pain, but its better to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Even if you have regular episodes of heartburn and history of GERD, any significant or different back pain should be checked so you can rule out any serious complications.

At the Spine And Rehab Group, we have extensive experience in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of any spinal-related injuries or back pain. As one of the leading providers of spinal care in New York, we pride ourselves on our commitment to excellent customer service and effective solutions. To learn more about our services and what we can do for your back pain, visit one of our clinics today.

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Heart Attack And Other Heart Conditions

Back spasms during a heart attack or oncoming heart attack can cause pain between the shoulder blades. This is according to Pain Doctor.

The pain may be accompanied by tightness or squeezing in the chest or arms that may spread to the jaw, neck, or back.

Studies show that pain between the shoulder blades associated with an impending heart attack mostly affect women.

Because back spasm symptoms are rarely associated with a heart attack, it can be easily dismissed as nothing, when in fact it can be a life-threatening symptom.

Additionally, other heart conditions such as inflammation of the lining of the heart or a tear in the aorta may cause symptoms such as pain between the shoulder blades.

Pain Between Your Shoulder Blades: Causes

Self diagnose your pain between your shoulder blades |

To differentiate the causes of interscapular pain, one must be familiar with the region’s anatomical structures. These anatomical structures reside near the interscapular region:

  • Cervical and Thoracic spine, including vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs.
  • Scapula or shoulder girdle.
  • Muscles, such as the rhomboids, lower trapezius, middle trapezius, upper trapezius, and the Paraspinal muscles.
  • Spinal and peripheral nerves.
  • Portions of the lungs.
  • A portion of the heart.

While this list of anatomical structures is not exhaustive, it serves as a baseline for possible pain causes between the shoulder blades. One of the most common causes of interscapular pain is muscular pain due to muscle strain, trauma, or posture strain. This can result in interscapular pain and result in combined neck and shoulder pain as well. The severity of muscular pain is typically mild and temporary. A strain of the rhomboids or trapezius muscles can result from repetitive pulling movements, such as pulling a starter on a lawnmower or performing rows at the gym. A muscle strain is typically the result of an excessive load placed on the muscle, causing inflammation and the muscle belly’s tearing.

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Can Heart Problems Cause Pain Between Shoulder Blades

Pain in the back, neck, jaw, teeth, and between the shoulderblades can be caused by heart disease. If you have any unexplained pain, you should call your doctor right away. Backpain is a normal part of aging, but it can also be a sign of a serious medical condition, such as a heart attack or stroke.

The most common signs include: a sharp, stabbing pain on one side of your lowerback that feels like someone is stabbing you with a knife or a screwdriver a dull ache in your back or neck or pain that doesnât go away when you lie down or stand up. You may also feel tired or weak, and you may feel dizzy or light-headed.

Your doctor may want to do a physical exam to rule out other medical conditions that may be causing your pain. These may include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, kidney or liver problems, depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder , or other serious conditions.

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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What Causes Upper Back Pain In Females

Poor posture, like pushing the head forward while sitting or standing, can cause misalignment of the spine. Repetitive motions or lifting items can lead to muscle strain. There are injuries to discs, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Numbness or tingling in the upperback, neck, shoulders, arms, and/or legs. This may be accompanied by a feeling of heaviness or tightness in your lowerback.

It may also feel as if you are having a hard time moving your arms or legs, especially when you sit or stand for long periods of time. You may find it difficult to lift your head from the floor or sit up from a sitting position. Your arms and legs may feel stiff or numb.

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, you should see your doctor right away to rule out other causes of your pain, such as an injury to your spine or a medical condition that causes your back to ache or hurt. If your symptoms are more severe than the above, itâs important to see a doctor as soon as possible.

What Causes Upper Back Pain

Lump On Shoulder Blade Muscle

Although it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of upper back pain, common possible causes include:

  • Muscle strain, sprain, or overuse: Repetitive movements, such as those from physical labor, can lead to muscle and ligament injuries. Improper lifting technique can also result in upper back pain.
  • Poor posture: Slouching in a chair, hunching over a phone, or standing with the pelvis tucked under or out can all lead to upper back pain.
  • Disc or nerve damage: Discs are the soft shock absorbers between vertebrae. If ruptured or herniated, the discs bulge, putting pressure on the spinal nerves and triggering pain that often radiates.
  • Fractured vertebrae: Accidents can cause bones in the spine to break, impairing movement.
  • Osteoarthritis: Though more common in the neck and lower back, this wear and tear type of arthritis can happen in the upper back as well. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage breaks down.
  • Osteoporosis: Weak, brittle bones are more susceptible to fractures.

Other conditions and lifestyle factors that can contribute to upper back pain include:

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