Experiencing pain between your shoulder blades is a frustrating ordeal, as it is not always clear what caused the issue. This can be a symptom of a wide range of problems big or small, like bad posture when sleeping or lung cancer. Here is some information you should know about the symptoms you are experiencing.
Shoulder Blade Pain Symptoms
Before we begin talking about any symptoms, we must first be sure we are on the same page. The shoulder blades can be a tricky thing to figure out if one does not know what it looks like. Its official name being the scapulae, the shoulder blades are triangular shaped bones located in your upper back that protrude when pull your elbows behind you.
The shoulder blades support many functions, one function of which is the support of essential movement patterns of the shoulder.
If there is pain in this region, there can be many causes. The most common cause is inflammation in the scapula itself. Also, another thing to consider is which shoulder blade is affected, as there are conditions which can affect one side, and different ones which affect another side.
Potential Causes of Shoulder Blade Pain
Shoulder blade pain can be caused by inflammation or trauma directly on the shoulder area itself. It could also be felt because of referred pain (pain that is felt not where the source of problem is) from other areas of the body such as the abdomen or chest.
As a result, the pain that you experience in this area can be due to muscle strain or a more serious problem like a lung or heart condition, or even cancer.
Mentioned above, there are conditions which affect a specific shoulder blade. The gallbladder disease, for example, can cause you to feel pain in the right shoulder blade. Heart conditions on the other hand, can cause referred pain to the left side. Below is a list of potential causes:
- Muscle Strain. The most common source of shoulder blade pain. This occurs due to brief overuse of arms and upper body – likely due to intense bouts of sudden physical activity (e.g. lifting heavy furniture) when not warmed up or done with improper form. Even a seemingly harmless activity, such as sleeping, can be a cause of pain if sleeping posture is poor.
- Disc Disease. The compression of spinal discs in the spine can cause nerve compression and reduced flexibility which can contribute to shoulder blade pain.
- Heart Conditions. Referred pain, or pain felt from other areas of the body, such as the heart can be a potential cause of shoulder blade pain. Such conditions as pericarditis and heart attacks may cause these problems.
- Shingles. The virus that causes shingles is the same one that causes chickenpox. If you experience shoulder pain with a rash following up after then you may have shingles.
- Bone Metastases. A cancer that spreads to the scapula can be caused by lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and esophageal cancer. There are a variety of other cancers that could potentially lead to back pain between the shoulder blades.
- Lung Tumors and Lung Conditions. A form of cancer that can grow on the tops of lungs are pancoast tumors, and these usually cause pain in the shoulder blades, shoulder, and arm regions. Pulmonary emboli or pneumothorax or some other conditions which can cause shoulder blade pains.
- Osteoporosis. This condition causes bones to thin out over time, causing them to be weak and tender. Though a more general condition, it can affect the shoulder blades as well.
- Fractures. Due to accident or injury, fractures to the shoulder blades can occur though it is unlikely. However, if you have osteoporosis, the weakened bones can fracture easily which can cause shoulder blade pains.
- Abdominal Conditions. Diseased organs and a unhealthy digestive tract are common causes of referred pain that is felt in the back between the shoulder blades. Some examples are: gallstones, liver disease and peptic ulcer disease.
- Arthritis. If you have arthritis in your shoulders or shoulder blades, this can easily result in referred pain that is felt in the scapula.
Treating back pain between the shoulder blades will depend on what the underlying issue is. If it relates to overuse, then solving this problem can be as easy as waiting until the body recovers naturally. If it is related to disease and illness, then medical attention should be pursued immediately.