Shoulder Blade Pain Relief Tips and Tricks
The shoulder blade, or scapula, is an essential player in the upper back, providing support for the shoulder joint and allowing for a wide range of movements. But when the scapula is overused or subjected to repetitive motions, it can become a source of pain and discomfort.
The causes of shoulder blade pain are varied, from poor posture to rotator cuff injury, and can even include underlying medical conditions such as heart attacks and aortic dissection.
In this blog post, we’ll examine the common causes of shoulder blade pain and provide tips and tricks for reducing and managing discomfort. Then, we’ll offer a fresh perspective on the scapula and its role in shoulder blade pain.
Lastly, we’ll provide practical advice for those seeking relief from shoulder blade pain, including exercises, over-the-counter pain relievers, and other treatment options. Join Muscle MX as we explore ways to find relief from shoulder blade pain.
What Are the Causes of Shoulder Blade Pain?
When it comes to the possible causes of shoulder blade pain, whether it’s in the left shoulder or right shoulder, whether it’s short-term or chronic, there are a few possible culprits.
Here are a few of the most common causes of shoulder blade pain.
Slouching at your desk, hunching over your phone, and other posture faux pas can stress your scapula, leading to shoulder blade pain. For every inch you bend your neck forward, the pressure on your neck increases by seven to 10 pounds — it’s safe to say that this is not good for your spine.
Overuse and Strain
Athletes and manual laborers who repeatedly put their scapula through its paces can experience overuse and strain, leading to shoulder blade pain. While our bodies are resilient and movement-oriented by design, even the fittest amongst us can push too hard.
This pain could signify overuse or strain if you’re feeling pain in your shoulder blades after an intense workout or a long day at work.
Rotator Cuff Injury
The rotator cuff is a crucial muscle group that provides stability and support to the shoulder joint. Our rotator cuffs comprise the infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis, and supraspinatus muscles — all of which are connected to the scapula.
Injury or irritation of these muscles can lead to shoulder blade pain.
Muscle strain in the neck and upper back, which are connected to the scapula, can also cause shoulder blade pain. Think of it like a domino effect: When the muscles in your neck and back experience strain, they can’t do their job, leading to additional stress on the scapula.
Underlying Medical Conditions
In some cases, shoulder blade pain can be a symptom of underlying medical conditions such as heart attack and aortic dissection. While shoulder blade pain is rarely the only symptom of these conditions, it’s essential to be mindful of other symptoms and see your doctor if you experience any concerning signs.
Other factors, such as osteoporosis, thoracic spine problems, and spinal stenosis, can also contribute to shoulder blade pain. Imagine your scapula as the hub of a wheel — if the spokes are weak or damaged, it can affect the whole structure.
The same is true for our bodies; if any part isn’t functioning correctly, it can hurt the other structures. The reverse is also true, however — if we strengthen one piece, it can help the whole system.
What Are the Symptoms of Shoulder Blade Pain?
Shoulder blade pain can present itself in various ways, and the specific symptoms can depend on the underlying cause. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common symptoms and what’s behind them.
Pain in the Shoulder Blade Area
The most straightforward symptom of shoulder blade pain is, of course, pain in the scapular region. This pain can range from a dull ache to sharp pain and can be caused by various factors such as muscle strain, rotator cuff injury, and poor posture. This is your scapula asking you to pay attention.
Pain in the Shoulder Joint and Upper Arm
The shoulder joint and upper arm are connected to the scapula through various muscles, tendons, and ligaments, so it’s not surprising that pain in these areas can be a symptom of shoulder blade pain.
In addition, several thoracic nerves, such as the suprascapular nerve and the axillary nerve, exit through the scapula, so injury or irritation of these nerves can also lead to pain in the shoulder joint and upper arm.
The neck and upper back muscles are closely connected to the scapula, so neck pain can also be a symptom of shoulder blade pain. Neck pain often presents as stiffness, soreness, and tenderness, which can be due to muscle strain or nerve impingement.
Remember those added pounds for every inch we slouch our necks? They can also add to shoulder pain by compressing our neck and upper back muscles.
Shortness of Breath
In some cases, shoulder blade pain can accompany shortness of breath. This symptom can be caused by compression of the lungs or airways or by irritation of the phrenic nerve, which controls the diaphragm. Shoulder pain can be breathtaking — and not in a good way.
Chest pain can also be a symptom of shoulder blade pain, mainly if the pain originates in the chest cavity. Chest pain can feel like a heavy weight pressing down on your chest and can be caused by various conditions such as heart attack or aortic dissection.
If you experience accompanying symptoms such as nausea and dizziness, seek medical attention immediately. If you have chest pain or shoulder pain that appears seemingly out of nowhere, it’s important to see your doctor immediately, as this may be a sign of a much more serious medical issue.
How Is Shoulder Pain Treated?
Let’s delve into the many diagnostic and treatment avenues available to alleviate your painful scapula.
Consult a Medical Professional
The initial step in finding solace from shoulder blade pain is to seek the expertise of a medical professional. They can diagnose the root cause of the pain and prescribe a treatment plan tailor-made for your unique needs.
Plus, shoulder pain can sometimes indicate a deeper underlying condition. If this is the case, getting immediate medical care and advice could make a huge difference in long-term health outcomes.
Physical therapy and exercises prescribed by a physical therapist can often be a lifesaver for shoulder blade pain. These exercises can help you build strength, increase flexibility, and enhance your range of motion, offering your scapula a much-needed workout.
Physical therapists are professionals who specialize in functional exercise and muscular recovery. Your therapist will create an exercise program for you that will place just the right amount of stress on your scapula without pushing you beyond your limits.
Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help to relieve the pain and reduce heightened immune responses that are often associated with shoulder blade pain.
However, everyone metabolizes pain relievers differently, so follow the instructions on the box and check with your doctor if you have any questions regarding their use.
Chronic Pain Management
More advanced treatment options may be necessary for those suffering from chronic shoulder blade pain. These treatments can include medications like corticosteroids and lidocaine injections to reduce immune responses and alternative therapies like acupuncture, acupressure, massage, and chiropractic care.
Immediate Medical Attention
If you’re experiencing severe pain or have other symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, it’s imperative to seek medical attention immediately. As discussed, these symptoms can indicate a more serious underlying condition, and prompt medical attention can help ensure a positive outcome.
Tips for Shoulder Blade Pain Relief
Shoulder blade pain can be a formidable opponent, but don’t let it win the fight. With these tips, you can find relief and get back to enjoying all of your favorite activities.
Here are a few of our favorite tips to reduce and prevent feelings of discomfort in the shoulder:
- Fix your posture. Remember all those extra pounds you can add with the wrong posture? Practicing good posture may relieve some pressure from your shoulders.
- Stretch those muscles. Stretching the trapezius and rhomboids can help keep your muscles from tensing up.
- Keep those shoulders and neck moving. Maintaining your mobility in these joints can help you ease pain and avoid stiffness.
- Rest is essential. Giving your upper back a break can help it recover from the stress of the day.
- Focus on your health, and avoid overuse injuries. Practicing good body mechanics can help you avoid overuse and promote good musculoskeletal health in the future.
- Focus on wellness. Take care of your body, and it’ll take care of everything else.
The Bottom Line
In this blog, we’ve discussed some of the best tips, tricks, and treatments for shoulder blade pain relief. There’s no shortage of options available, including posture, physical therapy, over-the-counter medications, alternative therapies, and medical attention in case of severe pain or other symptoms.
If you have shoulder pain, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis so you can best manage your pain and avoid any frustrating, long-term effects.
At Muscle MX, modern science and traditional remedies combine to optimize your body’s performance and lead you to a life of comfort and ease. Join us on the path to sustained wellness to take your performance to new heights.