Are you experiencing pain between your shoulder blades? There are a few common causes for this type of pain, and it is usually described as being felt as upper back pain between the shoulder blades. In this article we go on to discuss other possible symptoms you may have as well as treatments to relieve them.
Causes Of Pain Between Shoulder Blades
There are many possible causes of pain between the shoulder blades, however muscle strain is the most common. Muscle strain can occur from:
- poor posture
- prolonged sitting or standing
- excessive lifting
- twisting activities such as golf or tennis
- sleeping on a bad mattress
These conditions can lead to pain between the shoulder blades after trauma; acromioclavicular joint separation and rupture of the rotator cuff. The separation of the shoulder differs from the dislocation of the shoulder, which can be felt at the shoulder joint.
Disc Diseases Causing Upper Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades
Degenerative disc diseases of the cervical or thoracic spine can cause so-called pain in these regions. It is not uncommon for people with intervertebral disc disease in the neck to feel pain in other regions, which can lead to delayed diagnosis.
Other symptoms can include numbness, tingling and pain in one or both arms. Pain due to an intervertebral disc disease in the neck can be positional. For example, it can improve or get worse if you bend or stretch your neck.
Other Causes Of Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades
Arthritis: Arthritis in the neck can also cause pain in the shoulders and other regions.
Heart Attack: In one study, pain was investigated in people who had suffered a heart attack, the pain was limited to the area between the shoulder blades. Heart attacks, especially in women, can be detected early in the tensing of shoulders and upper back and is often accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. It is important to know how the symptoms of a heart attack differ in women from those of a man. The symptoms of heart disease in women can be atypical and vague and are often considered responsible for the higher mortality rate in women due to heart attacks.
Cancers: Cancers that have spread through the neck bones, such as breast cancer, and can cause pain between shoulder blades and other symptoms. Other cancers that can cause pain between shoulder blades region are esophageal cancer, mesothelioma, lymphoma and liver cancer. Lung cancer and pancreatic tumours can also cause pain between shoulder blades, as it pushes the nerves to the top of the lungs.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause pain in the upper back pain between shoulder blades. Symptoms of GERD include chest pain, hoarseness and difficulty swallowing. Inflammation of the pancreas can cause this type of pain due to irritation of the underside of the diaphragm. As well as causing discomfort, GERD has also been linked to the later development of constriction and esophageal cancer.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome: Nerve inclusions such as myofascial pain syndrome (rhomboids) can also cause pain in this region. This syndrome is described as pressure on the sensitive areas of a muscle, also known as trigger points.
Gall Bladder Disease: Gall Bladder Disease symptoms and pain can occur after eating fatty meals. This can be stabbing pain in both shoulder blades and is often associated with pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen and nausea.
Pain Between Shoulder Blade And Spine
Spinal Curvatures: People are often aware of the curvature of their spine, but not always. Scoliosis of the thoracic spine can also cause pain in this part of the spine. The pain associated with thoracic aortic dissection can tear the wall of blood vessels, allowing blood to escape through the wall into the aorta, which can be a quick and severe medical emergency. This pain can be perceived as a sudden, sharp tear pain in the upper middle thoracic region.
Compression Fractures and Osteoporosis: Compression fractures and osteoporosis can also cause pain between shoulder blades. If there is a fracture and the pain is suspected to have originated from a fracture of the cervical or lumbar spine, it may be that it is shown too late and the diagnosis is delayed.
Shingles: Shingles can cause pain anywhere in the body, and depending on which nerve roots have been affected, a naturally occurring rash can occur. Pain can occur suddenly, be sharp, and be accompanied by severe shortness of breath, although some people may experience mild discomfort.
Pregnancy: People who have an epidural or have had a C-section during labor can experience severe inter-scapular pain. The pain can dissolve with a drop or slow down or disappear after delivery.
Upper Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades Relief
Some people find relief from shoulder blade pain through physical therapy performed at home.
Physical activity is important for overall health, and exercises that strengthen the areas of the back can help relieve pain. Push-ups and pull-ups are good exercises to strengthen the muscles in the back and abdomen. Shoulder extensions can also help. Yoga and other stretching techniques can improve blood circulation to muscles and joints and offer better mobility and pain relief.
Ask your doctor for other stretches that can relieve your pain.
Certain foods can cause inflammation in the body, which can worsen symptoms. Avoid processed foods and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Choosing foods with essential fatty acids such as salmon can also help.
Apply hot or cold compresses to your shoulder blades to relieve discomfort. You may need to rest to recover from your shoulder blade pain if it is the result of an injury.
You can also buy a hand massage device that you can use at home. Massage and physical therapy can in many cases relieve pain caused by muscle strain or joint injuries. A massage therapist works on the area between the shoulder blades to relax the muscle tissue.
If you have an injury with a compressed nerve, your doctor may recommend physiotherapy or occupational therapy. A therapist can help you perform certain exercises to improve the symptoms.
Certain medications can help relieve pain and discomfort in the shoulder blades. These include anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.). Steroids, given as tablets or injections, can also help with pain and inflammation.
Muscle relaxants and antidepressants can also be prescribed for certain conditions of the shoulder blades. Although rare, your doctor may recommend surgery if the pain in the shoulder blade is severe enough. The operation removes scar tissue and repairs tendons in the shoulder and upper back.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 90 percent of people with shoulder pain respond well to non-surgical options such as rest, exercise and medication. Pain between the shoulder blades can be a lifelong problem for some people. Most often, it is a temporary illness that disappears with rest and appropriate treatment. Your prospects depend on the cause of your shoulder pain and the severity of your condition.
The following measures can help prevent shoulder blade pain:
- Practice a good posture
- Try to stand up and sit up to avoid drowsiness
- Buy an ergonomic chair or special cushion to help align the spine and neck
- Avoid carrying heavy bags on one shoulder
- Do not lift heavy objects (When you lift, bend your knees and try not to put too much pressure on your back)
- Do not sit without stretching, especially when working on the computer (Stretching helps to keep the muscles loose)
- Try a standing desk
- Make sure you eat whole foods and get seven to eight hours of sleep a night
- Exercise at least three days a week
- A healthy lifestyle helps you to feel energetic and rested, which can help you deal with pain
There are many causes of shoulder blade pain that can be diagnosed based on your medical history. Your doctor will start with a thorough medical history and physical examination. Each question is unique to your health, history and situation, but in most cases you should be prepared to answer why your shoulder blades are painful.
Radiological tests may be recommended to detect conditions such as a compressed spinal cord. These tests include chest X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scan, an MRI and positron emission tomography or PET scans, especially if you have cancer. Tests are also carried out to look for inflammatory forms of arthritis and other connective tissue diseases.
If your doctor is concerned that your pain may come from the heart, a test such as an ECG or stress test may be recommended. It is worth repeating that heart pain in women should be noticed between the shoulder blades.