Shoulder Blade Pain: don’t Ignore It – Treat It!

While pain in the neck and shoulders is perhaps more common, a lot of people suffer from shoulder blade pain, too. Its causes can seem mysterious but sometimes point at serious health issues. Learn all you need to know about it here!

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While pain in the neck and shoulders is perhaps more common, a lot of people suffer from shoulder blade pain, too. Its causes can seem mysterious but sometimes point at serious health issues. Learn all you need to know about it here!

A pain with many faces

It comes as a surprise to many that shoulder blades can hurt, but if fact it’s very common: the pain can be dull or sharp and throbbing, it can appear suddently or develop slowly, and sometimes it impedes any physical activity. Sometimes it requires nothing but rest to heal, but at times an ECG or an edoscopy can be required to find a cause. In any case, shoulder blade pain should not be necglected.

More obvious causes – with remedies

In many cases, the cause for shoulder blade pain has to do with the bone itself and can be easily determined:

  • Intense physical activity, lifting weights – these activities result in pulled muscles and tendons (that is, tissue damage); get rest, use anti-inflammatory cream, and be careful next time. If you have weak muscles in the back, a new workout or sport (especially rock climbing, swimming, and tennis) can cause pain at first, but it will be the cure, too, as eventually muscles get stronger.
  • Sleeping in a bad position, especially too much on your side;
  • Bad posture, sitting too much at a computer, carrying a heavy purse on one shoulder – if you suspect that your lifestyle and posture are the culprits, then special exercises can help remedy that, though it may take months (many exercises can be found here);
  • Bone fractures – scapula (shoulder blade) is extremely difficult to fracture: it requires a serious fall or car accident;
  • Snapping scapula – this term refers to clicking, grinding, and pain in the scapula that results from the inflammation of the tissue between the scapula and the ribs; it is treated with physiotherapy and injections (more info here).

Unexpected causes

Quite often, scapular pain appears and gets worse without a clear cause. It can be co-called referred pain, meaning that it is transferred from another part of the body:

  • Cervical spine issues: damaged or collapsed disks in your neck can result in scapular and shoulder pain; this may need an MRI to diagnose and sometimes requires a disk surgery (more details here);
  • Heart problems: a heart attack or a rupture of the aorta can be felt as pain in the left shoulder blade, especially among women. If you feel sudeen and sharp scapular pain, call an ambulance immediately!
  • Pulmonary emboli – severe scapular pain can also signify that a blood clot has dislodged in your leg and has reached your lung. Call an ambulance – embolism can be fatal!
  • Impinged or inflamed nerves – sometimes accompanied by numbness or tingling in the arm;
  • Abdominal problems – nerves linking the abdominal area with the brain pass by the shoulderblades and cause referred pain. Diseases of liver, kidneys, and gallbladder, as well as pancreatitis and abdominal surgery can all result in scapular pain. Diagnosis is made via endoscopy.
  • Cancer – some forms of cancer (lung and colon especially) may cause shoulder blade pain, as well as metastases in the bone.

Treatment options

If a heart, nerve, or abdominal issue is the root cause of scapular pain, then, of course, that illness should be treated first. If your pain is of a more benign nature, then take some painkillers, use ice or hot compresses every 4 hours, and do the exercises mentioned above. Massage, yoga, and stretching help, too. However, if the pain becomes strong and throbbing, seek urgent medical assistance: as you have seen, scapular pain is no joke.

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