Pain in the shoulder blade is an issue that can have an impact on many people and it can be hard to discover the real cause of this pain. Usually, the cause of pain in the shoulder can be something simple like a muscle strain.
But, sometimes shoulder blade pain can be a result of serious health problems. So, you should never disregard it.

 Symptoms of Pain in the Shoulder Blades

If you want to better understand what causes the pain, it is essential to find out a bit more about shoulder blades.

The shoulder blades are 2 triangle shaped bones are connected to the collarbone and arms. The medical name for the shoulder blades is scapulae. They are part of the upper region of the back, as well as the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine supports your rib cage.

The spine and back are quite complex since they contain many joints, bones, muscles, nerves and ligaments.

Additionally, the upper back protects many crucial organs, like the heart. This is why it might be hard to discover the exact cause of shoulder blade pain.

This pain may be experienced in one or both of the shoulder blades. Even though usually such pain is a result of scapula damage, it can also be a referred pain. This means that the pain comes from someplace else in your body but it is felt there.

For example, many organ conditions cause pain exclusively on the right scapula whereas other conditions cause pain only on the left shoulder blade.

Many kinds of pain are linked to the upper back and the shoulders. But, in this article we will focus only on the shoulder blades.

Causes of Pain in the Shoulder Blades

Many things can cause shoulder blade pain. Usually there is nothing to be concerned about since the cause may be just a muscle strain. But sometimes, pain in the shoulder blade can indicate a lung, heart or other more serious condition.

These are the causes of shoulder blade pain:

Strained muscle

Muscle strain is among most usual causes of shoulder blade pain. The shoulder blades are surrounded by muscles which support them and help them move. Often repetitive actions can cause muscle strain which in turn can cause pain in the shoulder blades. Doing new exercises could put an additional muscle strain.

But sometimes, even sleeping in an uncomfortable position can wake us up with a strong pain between or in the scapulae.

Since the scapulae are linked to our arm function, it’s not surprising that our working conditions can cause chronic pain in the shoulder blades. A study from the Musculoskeletal and Back Rehabilitation Journal revealed that a greater strain on the scapular muscles can cause shoulder blade pain in people who work in the textile industry.

Try to refrain yourself from doing repetitive work for longer time without having a break.

If you experience shoulder pain after you wake up, try to change your sleeping position. To eliminate the back pain, Mayo Clinic advises that if you sleep on the side, you need to draw the legs towards the chest and place some pillow between. If you sleep on the back, put a pillow under the knees and a rolled towel under your back.

Disc Disease

There are two types of disc disease:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated disc

The degenerative disc usually occurs with age and it happens when the spine discs lose their fluid and break down. This decreases the space between the vertebrae, which can cause pressure on the nerves.

Herniated disc occurs when the fluid in the discs gets out and causes pressure on a nerve. These disc diseases can cause shoulder blade pain. For example, one research from the Journal of Orthopedic Surgery discovered that such pain may be a result of irritated neck nerves.

Fractures

Any bone trauma causes pain. Scapula fractures are pretty rare since they require a great force, like having a car accident. But sometimes, shoulder blade fracture can occur if the individual falls on a stretched arm.

Doctor Melinda Ratini from WebMD states that a shoulder blade fracture can result in dangerous injuries and if this happens to you, immediately seek treatment. This is because such fractures are usually linked to severe and life-threatening injuries.

Osteorthritis

This is a type of degenerative disease of the joints which can cause numerous symptoms like pain, abnormal growth of the bones, swelling, disfigured cartilage as well as impaired motion. While people can suffer from osteoarthritis in all joints, it is usually found in the knees, neck and back, hips, toes and fingers.

So, osteoarthritis can cause shoulder blade pain. Often, people suffering from arthritis suffer from joint inflammation between the tip of the shoulder and the collar bone or the joint that connects the arm to the shoulder blade.

People who suffer from arthritis can naturally alleviate the pain in many ways:

  • Use gelatin
  • Use turmeric extract or sesame seeds

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can cause decreased bone elasticity, and even though it is rare to have suffer from scapula fracture, this may occur if you fall. Since the bones are already brittle due to the osteoporosis, it may be ease to have a shoulder blade fracture.

Doctor. David Zelman from WebMD advises to consult your doctor immediately if you have hurt the shoulder. The early treatment could speed up your recovery.

Heart Conditions

Usually people link heart conditions (such as heart attacks) to chest pain. But, serious heart issues can also cause shoulder pain. In such cases, you may feel pain in the left scapula. This is an example of the abovementioned referred pain.

Also, heart attacks can cause chest discomfort and pain in both women and men. But, the US Heart Association claims that a lot of women can suffer from a heart attack without feeling pressure in the chest. A recent study found that women feel cardiac pain in a different way than men do. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, short breath, and shoulder blade pain.

A study showed that the symptoms that women felt before experiencing heart attack were scapulae pain, short breath, chest pain and fatigue.

Lung Cancer

Rarely, shoulder blade pain can be a result of Pancoast tumor. This tumor grows on the upper region of the lungs and among the first symptoms is shoulder blade pain. Usually, the pain caused by this is severe and constant.

Doctor Lynne Eldridge, an expert on lung cancer, stated that if you experience scapulae pain that worsens at night, occurs only when you are resting, and is not connected with inactivity, you should consult a doctor.

Sometimes shoulder blade pain may be a result of bone metastases. But, keep in mind that it is one of the possible causes so don’t panic if you experience such pain, just consult a doctor to rule this possibility out.

Breast Cancer

This is the most typical type of cancer in the world that can affect both women and men. One of the symptoms for breast cancer is pain in the shoulder blades.

People usually feel upper back pain between the scapulae before the occurrence of other signs of breast cancer.

Fibromyalgia

This condition is associated with chronic tissue and muscle pain in different parts of your body. Symptoms of this condition include disrupted patterns of sleep and fatigues. But, one of the fibromyalgia symptoms is upper back pain between the scapulae.

Abdominal Conditions

Sometimes, a referred pain may be experienced in the scapulae when there are conditions that affect other organs.

Gallstones

Mayo Clinic claims that together with the strong pain in the upper region of the abdomen, gallstones can cause right shoulder pain and pain in the area between the scapulae as well.

Cancer and Liver Disease

Usually symptoms of liver disease are discomfort or pain in the upper region of the abdomen and yellowish skin.

But, together with the abovementioned symptoms, liver diseases can cause pain in the right scapula.

Pancreatitis

This is an inflammation of the pancreas.

Among the symptoms of pancreatitis is a left scapula pain. And just like all abdominal diseases, pancreatitis will cause more symptoms than just shoulder pain.

Scapulae Pain Treatment

The treatment for shoulder blade pain depends on the issues that cause the pain. If the cause is muscle strain (which usually is the case) the pain will pass with rest. If this pain is caused by a more serious issue, consult with a doctor for the best treatment.

Proper Posture for Healthy Back

Since usually scapulae pain is caused by muscle strain, make sure you have a good posture. How to test this? In order to check if your posture is right, try this:

  • Stand up with the back placed against a wall
  • The head, buttocks and shoulders should touch the wall
  • If your posture is good you will easily put the hand through the curve in the lower back

Then you will be able to notice an imaginary straight line beginning from the ears to the ankles. This posture is the best for avoiding additional strain to the back muscles.

If you live a sedentary lifestyle, keep the back as straight as you can. The chair you use should have the appropriate height so that the elbows and knees are at a ninety-degree angle.

Because shoulder blade pain can be a result of stiff neck, do this exercise to alleviate the stiffness:

Depending on the side where you feel the pain, use the same side hand to apply pressure on the affected area but do not press it too much.

Turn the head at the opposite side of the pain and put the chin towards the armpit.

Return the head on the initial position and do this exercise 15 times.

This quick exercise will alleviate the neck pain. It will also relieve the shoulder blade pain.