First I think you should know a bit of the general anatomy of the area concerned.
The area of the back (spine) between the two shoulder baldes is called the thoracic spine. The shoulder baldes are called scapula. The major muscles are the rhomboids (major/minor), trapezius, levator scapula, infraspinatus and supraspinatus.
Symptoms of Pain Between the Shoulder Blades
As I mentioned earlier there are many times a person will come into the chiropractic clinic because of this pain they cannot get rid of between their shoulder blades. This is what I might hear:
- It’s sore to take a deep breath
- I need to push my shoulder into the corner of the wall to get some relief
- The pain is a deep ache
- I can’t put my chin to my chest now
- It is sore to stretch between my shoulder blades
- I want to twist my shoulders to try get a click for relief
Does this sound familiar at all? These are just some of the typical things I hear people say to me.
What Causes Shoulder Blade Pain
This is the next question you want answered. Well these are some of the normal mechanical causes and the more serious causes of thoracic pain.
- Mechanical Back Pain
- Rib Dysfunction - You have twelve ribs either side of your thoracic spine. The ribs move like a bucket handle going up and down with breathing. There are times the movement of the rib head on the vertebral body can cause pain. I usually find the 3rd and 4th ribs are the most painful.
- Muscle Trigger Point - A trigger point is basically a muscle knot. These trigger points in one of the upper back muscles, especially the levator scapulae, I find to be a problem. This is when you want people to rub your shoulders or you try get something to push into your shoulder blade area. Trigger points can also cause referred pain, which could create pain in other places.
- Thoracic Dysfunction - The spinal joints (facets) can, like the ribs, move causing pain between the shoulder blades. You may have heard your chiropractor mention a condition called T4 syndrome. I find that a lot of people have tenderness over the T4 vertebrae region. I think this is because we tend to slump our shoulders through this area of the thoracic spine.
- Trapped Nerve Pain - A trapped nerve in your neck can also cause pain between the shoulder blades. I have written more about trapped nerve pain in the shoulder and neck which you can read also.
Serious Causes of Shoulder Blade Pain
There are times when you can get an organ in your body causing the pain. This is called visceral pain and is a referred pain from an organ like your liver, gall bladder, stomach, spleen, lungs, or pericardial sac. You could also have shingles starting. You can see a picture of where different organs can send pain.
Pain Between Shoulder Blades Relief
So now you know what some of the symptoms and causes of pain around your shoulder blades. Now lets look at some of the things you could do to get relief from your shoulder blade pain.
- See a Chiropractor or Doctor - As you may have read there are times a back pain can be coming from a more serious cause. If you are worried it is easy to have a health professional help you out. You can find a UK chiropractor here.
- Heat - This is a simple self-treatment. Using a microwaveable wheat bag, hot water bottle or an warm moist towel apply the heat to the painful muscle to try relax the muscle knot.
- Massage - Using a massage machine you could try use the massager to try relax any muscular tension in the area. You could also see a massage therapist for a deep tissue massage.
- Cat Stretch - This is when you slowly try round your shoulders as much as you can whilst pushing your spine backwards to get a stretch between the shoulder blades. Sometimes this is easier when you are warm like after a shower or bath. You can see the video below of the cat stretch.
- Good Night Sleep - It is amazing how a good nights sleep can help the body to heal itself. So try get a good nights sleep to see if that helps the pain.
- Gentle Exercise - Sometimes poor posture for too long causes the muscle knots and irritated rib or spinal joints. So if you have been doing lots of desk work or computer work then try go do some gentle exercise to see if it can help stimulate your posture.
- Thoracic Spine Mobilisation