How to relieve shoulder blade pain easily at home? How and when it gets serious? What are the possible causes? Let’s find the answers to these questions and a few more.
Also known as “interscapular pain,” pain between shoulder blades is very common. You may have aching, sore, dull, and shooting pain at the mid-back of your shoulder blades.
Usually, there is nothing serious about it, and it gets better in a few days. However, it can also be a sign of some more serious health conditions. Although it is not serious, it can surely disturb the quality of your life. Read on to find everything about shoulder blade pain.
What are the possible causes?
There may be various possible causes of shoulder blade pain. An injured muscle or tendon usually causes the pain, and the injury may cause due to:
- Wrong exercise
- Heavy lifting
- Poor sitting position
- Prolonged hours of working at computers
- Muscle strain while sleeping.
Injuries to other different body parts like spine fracture, rotator cuff tears, or any type of injury due to trauma can also be responsible for pain at shoulder blades. Some other but rare causes of pain are:
- Osteoarthritis of ribs, spine, neck
- Spinal stenosis
- Acid reflux
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Nerve compression
- Certain cancers like lymphomas, lung cancer, liver cancer, bone cancer, mesothelioma, oesophageal cancer, etc.
Shoulder blade pain can also be one of the heart attack symptoms, especially in women’s cases. It may be accompanied by other signs like shortness of breath and chest pain. If you suffer from these three symptoms at a time, you should not waste any time and seek immediate medical attention.
At times, sharp, severe pain in the upper-middle back is also a sign of rupture to the thoracic aorta. In such a case, the patient may suffer from severe pain and is more often than not a medical emergency.
Pulmonary embolism is another very serious condition and can be a factor responsible for shoulder blade pain. People with pulmonary embolism may complain about a sudden, sharp pain at the shoulder blade. It happens when the blood clots in the legs are breaking down and travel to the lungs. One of the major symptoms of pulmonary embolism is shortness of breath, and it also needs immediate medical attention.
When should you see a doctor?
When you suffer from severe, unusual pain for more than a couple of weeks, you should get in touch with a qualified medical practitioner. Persistent pain can be a sign of something wrong you are unable to find. Whether or not your condition is serious, if it doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks. So, it’s better to get medical attention instead of waiting for something serious.
If you develop shoulder blade pain along with some other symptoms, chances are of something really serious. It may even become life-threatening and require prompt medical attention. You should get immediate medical attention if the pain is accompanied by:
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Chest pain
- Cough with blood
- Light-headedness or vertigo
- Pain, redness, or swelling in the legs
- Loss of vision
- High fever
- Sudden difficulty speaking
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
- Paralysis of any part of the body
Treatment for shoulder blade pain will be decided according to the exact cause and severity. And recovery time will also depend on the condition and causative factor(s).
The condition can be managed with home remedies if there is no other major complication. Here are some home remedies for shoulder and neck pain; you can try to get some relief.
Physical exercise is very important to follow a healthy life. But it can also be effective to strengthen your shoulder and back and may relieve acute pain. We recommend a few exercises like pullups, push-ups, and sit-ups, to improve pain initially.
Stretching techniques like Yoga can also effectively improve pain by managing blood circulation through better mobility.
You can try this stretching exercise for shoulder blade pain.
- Cross one arm over the body.
- Pull your elbow using the other hand towards your chest, and hold for about 10 seconds.
Diet and Regimen
Some foods can increase the inflammation and hence pain. You should avoid processed foods and add a lot of fruits and vegetables to your diet. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, are also helpful in improving the condition.
Sometimes, rest is more than enough to recover from shoulder blade pain, especially if developed due to injury or exercise.
Cold or Hot Therapy
Cold or hot compresses in the affected areas can also be a solution. Repeat cold or hot compress every two hours for fifteen minutes to relieve discomfort
A professional therapist can help you overcome the pain by working between your shoulder blades to relax the stiffed muscles.
Occupational therapy is effective in case of pain due to a compressed or injured nerve. The therapist will help you to perform certain physical exercises targeting the affected muscles and tissues.
Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salt contains magnesium and, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, it can give some relief to your shoulder blades.
How to get Epsom salt bath:
- Add one cup of Epsom salt to your bathwater and dissolve for a couple of minutes.
- Soak yourself in the bath for 15-20 minutes to feel the calming and pain-relieving effects of Epsom.
Using kinesiology tapes to relieve shoulder blade pain is also a great ideal. It is used to control the movements of the scapular region to avoid shoulder pain. The function of this medicated tape is to support the injured shoulder during movement. It is also great short-term pain management but is recommended for acute pains only.
What You Need
- A kinesiology tape from a renowned brand
Steps to use the tape
- Put the tape across the muscles of your shoulder griddle (You can get help from someone for proper placement).
- Watching a tutorial or seeking help from a therapist isn’t a bad idea, either.
- Keep it for four to five days or until you feel better.
- You can also reuse the tape for a few months.
Over the counter medications for shoulder blade pain can also be effective, especially there are mild symptoms. OTC medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, etc. may improve the condition.
When you need surgery?
Surgery is very rarely recommended for this condition. As many as 90 percent of patients get better by nonsurgical treatment like exercises, medications, rest, etc. But your doctor may advise for in case if the condition is caused by an injury and is not improving after prolonged treatment. The doctor may remove minor scar tissues or repair tendons in the affected area.
Chances of Prognosis
Prognosis is very good in the case of shoulder blade pain. However, if there is severe chronic pain, the prognosis also depends on the duration and severity of pain.
More often than not, it is a temporary condition and goes away with a combination of treatment and rest. However, some people may live the whole of their life with the pain!
Some Prevention Tips
Instead of knowing how to help shoulder blade pain, you are better if you know how to prevent this condition. Here are some prevention tips:
- Always maintain good posture: Posture matters a lot! Bad posture can affect your body very heavily. Always stand or sit tall. Avoid slouching as much as possible. An ergonomic chair or a special pillow can help you maintain your posture if you have sitting work.
- Avoid long sitting hours: Don’t sit continuously for hours, even if you have a sitting work. Take a break now and then, and walk around for a few minutes.
- Avoid lifting very heavy items: Heavy lifting is also one of the major causes of shoulder blade pain. Don’t carry heavy bags on your shoulder. And if you have to lift something very heavy, don’t do it alone, and avoid so much pressure on your back.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Lifestyle changes can go a long way in dealing with shoulder pain. Try to get a healthy and wholesome diet, get proper sleep of six to eight hours, and do regular physical exercises.
Pain between your shoulder blades is mainly because of bad lifestyle habits. You can surely avoid it to a decent extent. And now, you have some very effective methods to improve mild to moderate pain. If you have severe pain for more than a few days, we recommend you visit a qualified doctor to find the exact cause and start proper treatment.