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Why You Shouldn't Ignore Pain Between Shoulder Blades

August 8, 2019

shoulder-painWe experience lots of aches as we get older, but pain between shoulder blades isn’t something to ignore. It can be attributed to quite a few different conditions but is most often caused by something that most of us do wrong every day (we’ll get to that in a minute).

Pain between the shoulder blades can range from a sharp pain to burning or tingling in your spine. Sometimes the pain can trigger additional problems like a headache. Regardless of the type of pain you’re having, you want to make sure you know what’s generating it and how to alleviate it because it could be a sign of a serious health problem.

Let’s take a look at some of the things that cause pain between shoulder blades and what you can do about it

Take Pain Between Shoulder Blades Seriously

You need to take the pain seriously for a couple of reasons. First, pain between the shoulder blades can sometimes signal a heart attack. It’s important to note that women often experience different heart attack symptoms than men — including back pain. If you have risk factors for heart disease including high blood pressure, you must not ignore the pain. Call your doctor, especially if you’re experiencing other symptoms of a heart attack like chest pain, shortness of breath or fatigue.

Pain between your shoulder blades may also be caused by certain kinds of cancer, gallbladder disease, scoliosis, acid reflux, a pulmonary embolism (blood clot), arthritis and trauma.

Shoulder Blade Pain and Your Trapezius Muscle

Shoulder blade pain is often tied back to your trapezius muscle.

It is a large, triangular muscle that runs from the base of your neck down to your lower back. The trapezius stabilizes your shoulder blades and also facilitates shoulder and neck movement.

Typically, if you’re having pain that’s generating from your trapezius muscle, you’re most likely experiencing that pain between your shoulder blades. This pain may also have accompanying symptoms, such as:

  • muscle stiffness
  • shoulder or neck pain
  • muscle spasms
  • tingling or numbness in one or both arms
  • decreased range of motion in the shoulders or neck

Pain in the upper back (or between your shoulder blades) that is generating from the trapezius muscle is typically caused by things like:

  • Muscle strains
  • Overuse (maybe you lifted something heavy)
  • Stress
  • Posture

Bad posture is the No. 1 cause of pain in the area between your shoulder blades.

Are you reading this story on a tablet, smartphone or laptop? If so, pause for a moment and note your posture. Are you hunched forward? Is your neck bent down to see your screen? Are you sitting upright or slouched?

How To Alleviate Minor Pain Between Shoulder Blades

The good news is that there are several ways to manage pain between your shoulder blades. Here’s how.

Get into yoga. You don’t need to go to hour-long classes in a studio if you can just master these three simple moves. Locust, upward-facing plank prep and Cow Face Arms are all designed to stretch the muscles in the chest, strengthen the neck and stabilize the shoulder blades.

Find stretches that help alleviate pain between the shoulders. The hug stretch and the ear-to-shoulder stretch can be done while sitting on a chair in your office. You may even find that you do these stretches intuitively throughout your workday because they feel good.

Watch your posture when you work. Hunching forward places enormous pressure on your neck, which eventually tires out the muscles between your shoulder blades. Your computer monitor should be placed so that you don’t have to stare down at it. Laptops are notorious for causing bad posture. Here’s how to fix it.

Drive smart. The reality is that many of us spend hours each day in the car. So, even if you watch your posture at work, you could be sabotaging your efforts in the car. Make sure that your knees are level with your hips and that the steering wheel is a comfortable distance from your body. Having to reach too far increases pressure on the back and neck.

If the above changes don’t do the trick — or if your pain is severe and accompanied by other symptoms — then it’s time to see a doctor. You may benefit from osteopathic manipulation. Work can be enough of a pain without also having discomfort between your shoulders all day long. Contact us today to schedule an appointment, which is the first step toward pain-free work and play.

Our guide to physical activity may also help. Find out how easy it is to work a little stretching and exercise into your day to stay strong and healthy.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans