Pain Between Shoulder Blades

What is Pain Between Shoulder Blades?

Pain between shoulder blades is not a disease but it is a symptom of many medical conditions and may be due to muscle pull and can be either acute or chronic. The nature, degree of pain and its duration is important to investigate the reason behind it. Investigation of the cause of the pain is very important because it helps to identify the disease condition associated with this pain. Sometime ignorance of such symptoms may create serious health issues and proper identification is also required to treat the disease condition.

pain between shoulder blades

Picture 1 – image showing types of shoulder blade pain

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shoulder blade muscles

Picture 2 – Muscles of shoulder blades (trapezius, rhomboid)

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Causes of pain between shoulder baldes

The various possible causes of pain between shoulder blades are discussed below:

Impaired Posture

Pain between shoulder blades due to impaired posture mainly occur due to unwanted strain generated in between the shoulder and neck muscles.  This unwanted pressure may be generated due to sudden hunching forward, weight lifting and disturbed sleeping posture. These events indicate instability of head posture which raises the strain of the muscle between the shoulder and neck. Strain causes accumulation of lactic acids and the muscle become fatigue which results pain and inflammation between shoulder blades. The pain can occur even due to long sitting posture in office or during travelling.

Degenerative Diseases at Cervical Region

Vertebral column is made by 33 bones which protect spinal cord from any unwanted shock as they are filled with a jelly like substance. Pad like structures present between these vertebral bones which maintains the flexibility. Degeneration of these structures causes slip disc. Initially vertebral column is made by seven bones denoted as cervical region and any deterioration of these specific structures or inadequacy of jelly like substance at the cervical region causes pain between shoulder blades. Previous accidental trauma at the cervical region also causes pain between shoulder blades. Another possibility of such pain is due to arthritis progression at the cervical region.

Abdominal Disorders

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Gastric ulceration and gall bladder associated diseases causes discomfort at the upper abdominal region. Pain and burning sensation is mostly associated with GERD and ulceration and gradually pain is extended between shoulder blades. Right arm and shoulder are primarily affected and nocturnal attacks are common.

Cardiac Problem

Lack of oxygen supply to the heart muscles causes angina pain which is initiated in the chest and then spread between shoulder blades. The pain sensation is also felt in left arm.


Specific malignancy or cancerous proliferation also causes pain between shoulder blades. Most common malignancy which causes pain between shoulder blades includes lung malignancy, oesophageal malignancy and liver malignancy.

Cervical Anterolisthesis

Anterolisthesis is a spine disorder which is characterized as the slippage of upper vertebral body in forward direction and overlap with next vertebral body. Anterolisthesis can occur at any part of the vertebral column and if it occur at cervical region then it produce discomfort between shoulder blades. Anterolisthesis causes abnormality of the spine which leads to contraction of the spinal passage or condensation of the spinal nerve terminals. This may causes spondylosis at the cervical and can cause pain.

Facet Joint Disorder

Except the upper vertebrae, other vertebra gets adjoined due to presence of facet joints between the vertebrae. Facet joint disorder can be diagnosed by X-ray or MRI of facet bone.  Torticollis is a medical condition where twisting of neck is occur.

Treatment of pain between shoulder blades

After identifying the cause of the pain the treatment measures should be taken accordingly. In case of chronic condition like cardiac problem, abdominal disorder, malignancy, the pain is an associated symptom. Improvement of the disease conditions subside the pain. Pain may be controlled by following some non therapeutic and therapeutic approaches.

Non-therapeutic Approaches

Control measures which do not include consumption of any medication or surgical process include:

Right Posture

Following of right posture during sitting, standing and sleeping is important to treat or prevent the pain. Avoidance of generation of strain around the neck region controls the pain. For that reason proper maintenance of height of the chair is important, arm should be angled slightly downward; wrist should not be lifted during sitting. Prolong sitting should be avoided. While standing relax your shoulder and during sleeping make sure your head and neck get the proper support. Avoid hard pillow and instead, use of towel roll in preferable.

Physical exercise

Few common exercises are clockwise and anti-clockwise rotation of the neck, neck bending and touching the chin at the chest. Side by side rotation of neck is helpful to control the pain. Rotating the shoulder joint clockwise and anti-clockwise are also beneficial. Some yoga posture like ‘Cat Posture’ has scientific evidence to control the pain between the shoulder blades.

treatment exercies for shoulder blades pain

Picture 3 – Exercises for pain between shoulder blades


Some medical devices such as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation are used to treat the pain. Hot and cold compression is also useful approach for pain control.

Therapeutic Approaches

Different analgesic medications are available which include non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, steroids and opioid analgesics to control the pain. Mostly in severe anterolisthesis, surgery is only option to reverse the condition.


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