Unraveling the Mystery: Back Pain Under the Shoulder Blade

Unraveling the Mystery: Back Pain Under the Shoulder Blade

Every now and then, a sharp twinge or persistent ache nestled right under the shoulder blade reminds us of the complex network of muscles, bones, and nerves in our back. This pain, often ignored or mistaken for a simple muscle pull, can sometimes signify underlying issues that need attention. In this article, we delve into the potential causes, preventative measures, and therapeutic remedies for back pain located beneath the shoulder blade.

Why Does My Back Hurt Under My Shoulder Blade?

Why Does My Back Hurt Under My Shoulder Blade?Pain under the shoulder blade can arise from various reasons, ranging from simple muscle strain to more serious underlying conditions. Here’s a breakdown of some common causes:

  • Muscle Strain or Overuse

This is one of the most common causes. Activities like heavy lifting, repetitive motions, or sudden awkward movements can strain the muscles around the shoulder blade.

  • Poor Posture

Sitting with a slouched or hunched back for prolonged periods, especially in front of a computer, can lead to muscle fatigue and pain around the shoulder blades.

  • Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. An injury to these can cause pain around the shoulder blade.

  • Herniated Disc or Other Spinal Issues

A herniated disc in the neck or upper spine can press on a nerve, causing referred pain to the shoulder blade area.

  • Gallbladder Disease

This might sound surprising. However, issues with the gallbladder can sometimes cause referred pain to the right shoulder blade.

  • Heart Conditions

Conditions like pericarditis or a heart attack, especially in women, can sometimes manifest as pain in the shoulder blade region.

  • Nerve Impingement

The pinching or irritation of nerves, as in thoracic outlet syndrome, can result in pain around the shoulder blade.

  • Other Conditions

Diseases like shingles can lead to pain in localized areas, including around the shoulder blade.

If you’re experiencing persistent pain, it’s crucial to consult a medical professional to get an accurate diagnosis. They will consider your medical history, perform physical exams, and possibly conduct imaging tests to determine the exact cause of your pain.

Is Pain Under Shoulder Blade Serious?

Is Pain Under Shoulder Blade Serious?Back pain under the shoulder blade can range from benign and temporary discomfort to a symptom of a serious underlying condition. Here’s how to interpret the seriousness:

Usually Not Serious

  • Muscle Strain: Overexertion or unfamiliar exercises can lead to temporary muscle pain or strain that heals with rest.
  • Poor Posture: Chronic bad posture can cause discomfort or pain in the upper back. This typically improves with posture correction exercises and ergonomic adjustments.
  • Minor Injuries: Small bumps or bruises in the area can cause temporary pain.

Potentially Serious

  • Herniated Disc: A herniated or bulging disc in the spine can press on nerves, leading to pain. While it’s serious, it’s often manageable with physical therapy, medication, and sometimes surgery.
  • Nerve Impingement: Conditions like thoracic outlet syndrome can cause nerve compression, necessitating treatment.
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries: Tears or injuries to the rotator cuff might require therapeutic or surgical intervention.

Serious and Require Immediate Attention

  • Heart Conditions: For some, especially women, pain in the shoulder blade region can be a sign of a heart attack or other cardiac issues.
  • Gallbladder Disease: Severe gallstone attacks can cause referred pain to the right shoulder blade and may require surgery.
  • Pulmonary Embolism: A blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs can cause shoulder blade pain and is a medical emergency.
  • Lung Conditions: Diseases like lung cancer or pneumonia can sometimes manifest as pain in the shoulder blade area.

Other Considerations

  • Accompanying Symptoms: If the shoulder blade pain is accompanied by other symptoms. Such as chest pain, shortness of breath, radiating pain to the arm, jaw, or neck, nausea, or excessive sweating, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention.
  • Duration and Intensity: Pain that is sharp, sudden, and intense, or pain that persists and doesn’t improve with rest and home remedies. Then, it should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
  • History of Disease: If someone has a history of heart disease, cancer, or other serious medical conditions, they should take any new or unexplained pain seriously.

While many causes of pain under the shoulder blade aren’t serious and resolve on their own, it’s essential to be aware of the potentially serious conditions. Always consult with a medical professional if you’re unsure about the origin or seriousness of the pain.

How Do You Relieve Back Pain Under The Shoulder Blade?

How Do You Relieve Back Pain Under The Shoulder Blade?Relieving back pain under the shoulder blade often requires a multifaceted approach, depending on its cause. However, there are general methods and therapies that can help alleviate this type of pain:

Rest and Activity Modification

When discomfort or pain strikes, our body is often signaling for a time-out. Overexertion, repetitive movements, or even a sudden, awkward position can strain the muscles around the shoulder blade. By recognizing this early on and giving oneself adequate rest, the body can naturally heal minor strains. Concurrently, modifying activities—like adjusting how you lift objects or changing the duration or intensity of certain physical activities—can prevent further aggravation.

Cold and Hot Therapy

The application of cold, through methods such as ice packs, provides vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), which can reduce inflammation and act as a natural analgesic by numbing the sore area. In contrast, heat therapy, using warm compresses or heating pads, dilates blood vessels, enhancing circulation in the affected area. This increased blood flow brings essential nutrients that aid in the healing process and help relax muscle tension.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Many find solace in non-prescription pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These medications not only address pain but can also reduce inflammation in the affected area. However, prolonged use or consumption without adhering to the recommended dosage can have adverse effects. Hence, it’s always wise to consult a healthcare professional before beginning any medication regimen.

Posture Correction

Our posture, especially in this digital age, plays a pivotal role in the health of our back and shoulder muscles. An ergonomically designed workstation, which might include a computer screen at eye level, a supportive chair, and frequent breaks to stand and stretch, can make a world of difference. Adopting mindfulness techniques to regularly check and correct posture throughout the day can prevent and alleviate muscle tension and pain.

Physical Therapy

Engaging with a trained physical therapist can offer tailored exercises and stretches to fortify the muscles around your shoulder blade. Their expertise in body mechanics and muscular function ensures that you engage in activities that are both safe and effective in alleviating pain and preventing future recurrences.

Massage Therapy

The therapeutic touch of a professional masseuse can do wonders. By kneading and manipulating the tense muscles around the shoulder blade, massage therapy can enhance blood circulation, aid in muscle relaxation, and offer significant pain relief. It’s a holistic approach that tackles both the physical and mental aspects of pain.

Stretching and Strengthening

Gentle stretches, from tilting the neck to rolling the shoulders, can offer immediate relief from tension. Incorporating these stretches into a daily routine can ensure long-term muscle flexibility. Additionally, focusing on strengthening exercises for the upper back, neck, and shoulders can create a muscular shield against potential injuries and strains.

Alternative Therapies

Techniques like acupuncture, where fine needles are inserted at specific points on the body, have been practiced for centuries in certain cultures for pain relief. Similarly, chiropractic care, which involves spinal adjustments, can also offer relief from musculoskeletal pain.

Dietary and Lifestyle Approaches

Inflammation is a common underlying factor in many pain scenarios. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric, and antioxidants, can aid in pain management. Additionally, our mental well-being is intrinsically linked to physical health. Managing stress through practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can not only tackle the root of muscular tension but also provide a holistic approach to well-being.

Lastly, while these methods are beneficial, it’s paramount to remember that persistent pain or pain arising from an unknown cause should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

How Can I Prevent Back Pain Under Shoulder Blade?

How Can I Prevent Back Pain Under Shoulder Blade?Absolutely! Preventing back pain under the shoulder blade goes beyond just immediate treatments. Here’s a detailed guide on some preventive strategies:

  • Ergonomic Design

Incorporating ergonomic principles into your daily life can make a significant difference. This means using chairs that support the natural curve of your spine and setting up your workstation. So you don’t have to hunch to see the computer screen and ensure your feet can rest flat on the ground.

  • Frequent Movement Breaks

Our bodies are designed for movement. When working for extended periods, make it a point to take short breaks every hour. Stand up, walk around, or even do a few gentle stretches. This can counteract the effects of prolonged sitting, which is a common culprit behind back and shoulder pain.

  • Incorporate Back-friendly Activities

Low-impact exercises like swimming, pilates, and tai chi emphasize flexibility and strength, both of which can bolster the back and shoulder region against potential pain.

  • Mind Your Sleeping Habits

Your sleeping posture can also contribute to back and shoulder health. Sleeping on your back with a supportive pillow under your knees, or on your side with a pillow between your knees, can maintain spine alignment.

  • Be Mindful of Lifting Techniques

When lifting heavy objects, always bend from the knees, not the waist. This technique ensures that the powerful leg muscles do the lifting, not your back. Hold the object close to your body and avoid twisting while lifting.

  • Stay Hydrated

The discs between our vertebrae are largely made up of water. Staying hydrated helps maintain the integrity of these discs and can prevent conditions like disc herniation. This can cause pain in the back and shoulder region.

  • Build Core Strength

The core muscles, which include the abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles, act as a stabilizing unit for the entire body. Strengthening them can provide enhanced support for the upper back and shoulder blade area.

Prevention is the cornerstone of maintaining a pain-free back. By incorporating these strategies into your daily life, you can proactively protect your back and shoulder blade region from potential discomfort and injury.


In the intricate tapestry of our daily lives, the health of our back and shoulder blades is pivotal, acting as a linchpin to our overall physical well-being. Whether it’s the sharp pang following an unfamiliar exertion or the dull ache of a long workday, understanding, addressing, and most importantly, preventing pain under the shoulder blade is paramount.

By integrating mindful practices, from ergonomic setups to core-strengthening exercises, and seeking timely interventions, we can navigate our days with strength, ease, and the confidence of a well-supported back. If you’re experiencing Shoulder pain, physical therapy for shoulder pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.