Back Shoulder Pain Causes Treatment

Back Shoulder Pain: Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

Back shoulder pain can confuse you as it is not obvious. At times, the pain can occur due to some simple reason like the wrong posture at work or during sleep. While some people experience it as a result of serious health conditions like lung cancer or heart attack. The potential causes may vary from one person to another. So, you can experience the agonizing pain due to an underlying health condition or trauma to the muscles in your back. You need to consult a doctor to determine the exact nature of the pain. It will help you deal with the interscapular pain effectively. Keep reading to understand the common problem and the methods to prevent it.

What Is Back Shoulder Pain?

The back shoulder pain refers to the agonizing feeling you can experience in your shoulder blades. The shoulder blades (also known medically as scapulae) present on your upper back have several functions. The triangle shaped bones stick out and become visible while you extend your elbows. The shoulder blades support the significant movements of your shoulder. The injury, trauma, or inflammation to the scapulae can result in the pain. The pain can also occur due to inflammation in other regions of your body. So, you can experience dull, shooting, aching, or sore pain. It mostly appears in your upper back between your shoulder blades.

back shoulder pain

Most of the time, the shoulder blade pain does not cause other complications. It occurs due to some simple reason that you never have to worry about. It is better to get doctor’s advice as some cases have serious underlying health reason. Such health issues need immediate medical attention. To detect the severity of the problem, your doctor must uncover the underlying cause of the pain. So, visit a medical professional to get expert advice and solution for dealing with the pain. Early intervention can eliminate the issue without other problems.

Causes Of Back Shoulder Pain

The back shoulder pain can occur due to any number of reasons. The problems can range from simple ones to life-threatening complication. So, the main causes triggering the pain are:


It is the most common cause that causes pain between the shoulder blades. An injury to the muscle or tendon can result in the pain. You can strain your muscle due to the following activities:

  • Poor posture
  • Heavy lifting
  • Exercise
  • Working at the desk or computer for extended periods of time
  • Poor or wrong posture during sleep
  • Other physical activities resulting in pain

You can also experience the back shoulder pain when you suffer injuries in other parts of the body. So, problems like spine fractures, rotator cuff tears, or other problems can result in the pain.

Heart Attack

The shoulder blade indicates a heart attack. It is especially true for women. When you experience the back pain along with the following signs, you need immediate medical assistance:

In such cases, you need to seek medical help as soon as possible to avoid fatal complication.

Aortic Dissection

Aortic Dissection

Also known as thoracic aorta rupture, it occurs when you suffer a rupture or tear in the large blood vessel. The inner layer tear of the large blood vessel, which branches off the heart can result in the pain. The severe and sharp pain in the upper middle back can cause you agony. In such cases, you need to get emergency medical help. The problem is considered a medical emergency due to the severe complication associated with it.

Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary Embolism

It is a serious condition resulting in shoulder blade pain. the problem can trigger sharp and sudden pain in your back. It occurs when the blood clots in your legs break off and reach your lungs. You can experience shortness of breath along with the pain. If you suspect pulmonary embolism, then get medical help as soon as possible.

Other Causes For Back Shoulder Pain

You can experience other issues that result in shoulder blade pain. The following problems can result in the pain in the shoulder blades:

Spine Problems

Several problems affecting your spinal cord can result in the back shoulder pain. Therefore, the issues include:

Acid Reflux

The problem known commonly as heartburn occurs when the acid content in your stomach goes back to your esophagus. It can cause pain in different areas of the body including shoulder pain.



It is a long-term condition triggering pain in several parts of your body. You can also experience extreme sensitivity to pain and fatigue due to the condition.


The viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus can result in a painful rash on your body. It can result in nerve pain. So, you can suffer from back shoulder pain due to the issue.


Certain types of cancer in your body can result in the shoulder blade pain. It can occur when you have the following types of cancers:

Nerve Compression

Also known as compression neuropathy, the problem can directly put pressure on your nerve and cause pain. The pressure or inflammation on the nerve root that exits your spine can trigger upper and lower back pain.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

It is the chronic pain disorder that causes pain in your muscles and other parts of the body. It occurs due to the excess pressure on the trigger points/ sensitive points in your muscles.



The development of stones in the gallbladder can cause shoulder pain. It mostly accompanies with other signs like pain in the upper quadrant of your abdomen or nausea.

Time To Visit A Doctor For Back Shoulder Pain

Even if the back shoulder pain does not cause problems, you need to see a doctor to determine the severity of the situation. But, most of the times, the pain alleviates without any medical treatment. You can manage it with home remedies and stretching exercises. But, when the pain becomes severe, you have to seek medical help. The excruciating pain that does not go away indicates a serious problem. Therefore, you need to check it out. Monitor other signs occurring in your body along with the shoulder blade pain. Certain symptoms that accompany with the shoulder blade pain indicate a life-threatening condition. It requires immediate medical attention from the experts. So, seek help immediately when you observe other signs like the following with the back shoulder pain:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of vision
  • Fever
  • Rapid/Irregular heartbeat
  • Pain/swelling/redness in your legs
  • Sudden difficulty speaking
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paralysis on one side of your body

The treatment plan developed by your doctor depends on the severity of your condition and the underlying cause. Depending on the person, the recovery time varies.

Diagnosing Back Shoulder Pain

Once you feel excruciating pain, you need to get it checked with your doctor. Your doctor can conduct several tests to determine the actual underlying issue. So, depending on the exact cause of the problem, your doctor can offer an effective treatment plan. The diagnostic methods available are:

Physical Examination

Physical assessment is the first step to diagnose the problem. Your doctor will ask your medical history and conduct a thorough assessment. But, to determine the problem conclusively, you need to undergo several other tests.

Radiological Studies

Radiological studies include sophisticated imaging techniques that can offer a comprehensive view of the back region. It can detect the different underlying problems like cancer, injury, trauma or other issues triggering the pain. So, your doctor can suggest the following tests to detect the problem without any doubt:

  • X-rays
  • MRI
  • PET Scan (for people with a history of cancer)

Heart Tests

If your doctor suspects you have heart issues, then you need to undergo certain tests that can clear the doubts. The stress test or EKG can help determine if heart problems trigger the back shoulder pain. In most cases, women with heart problem experience pain between the shoulder blades.

Abdominal Examination

The abdominal examination can detect the problems in your stomach as well as the small intestine. It will help detect the troubles in areas like esophagus or stomach using endoscopy. While ultrasound can determine problems with gallbladder. If the doctor suspects trouble with pancreas or liver, then a CT scan can provide comprehensive information.

Blood Tests

Your doctor can order blood tests. It will detect the underlying health problem that can cause back shoulder pain. It mainly checks for liver function tests, which can cause inflammation of the organ. So, you can experience pain in the shoulder blade and left shoulder. The blood tests also detect different inflammatory forms of arthritis as well as other connective tissue disorders.

Treatment Options For Back Shoulder Pain

When you experience back shoulder pain, get a doctor’s advice. It will help you understand the severity of the problem. The right treatment plan alleviates the issue and offers you comfort. Therefore, you can follow the therapy options suggested below:

Home Remedies For Back Shoulder Pain

For mild cases of shoulder blade pain, you can try some home remedies. It will help you get relief from the distress associated with the problem. Therefore, you can perform the following therapies at home:

Physical Activity To Strengthen Back Muscles

Weak shoulder blade muscles can induce pain. Therefore, you need to include physical activity that can strengthen the different areas in your back. You can perform pull-ups, pushups, and sit-ups to strengthen the weak muscles in the abdomen and back region. So, try to include the exercise in your daily routine to get relief from the pain.


You can practice stretching techniques and yoga. It will improve the blood circulation to the joints and muscle. So, you can enjoy better mobility and get relief from pain. You can follow the below-mention stretching techniques to get immense relief from pain and distress:

  • You need to cross your one arm over the body.
  • The next step requires you to pull the elbow of the arm you have outstretched using the other arm. Try to pull it towards your chest.
  • Hold the position for at least ten seconds.

Talk to your doctor about the other stretching exercises you can implement in your lifestyle to lessen the pain.

Change Your Diet

Certain types of food can trigger inflammation in your body. it can worsen the pain you can experience. Therefore, you need to make some changes in your diet to get relief from back shoulder pain. Follow the pointers offered below to avoid the worsening of pain:

Get Enough Rest

Sometimes, to recover from the pain in your shoulder blades, you get need to rest. With proper rest, you can recover from the pain troubling you. It is especially true for pain triggered due to an injury.

Cold/Hot Therapy

You can also opt for hot or cold compress therapy. It can provide relief from the discomfort caused due to the shoulder blade pain. You have to apply hot or cold compress between the areas of your shoulder blades. Keeping it for fifteen minutes at a time every four hours can relieve the discomfort.

Seeking Treatment From The Professionals

If the home remedies do not show any visible improvements, then you need to consult a medical professional to get an apt remedy.

Therapy Sessions

You can undergo massage or physical therapy sessions from professionals. It can offer immense relief in many cases. It is especially effective for people who suffer from pain due to overuse of joints or muscle. The therapy sessions can also work wonders on people who have suffered an injury.

  • Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy

You can undergo massage therapy by a skilled massage therapist. They work on the specific areas between your shoulder blades. It offers you relief as the massage help your muscle tissue relax. While you can perform the same procedure with a massage device at home, the professionals have a better knowledge of alleviating your pain.

  • Physical/Occupational Therapy

Your doctor can suggest you see a physical or occupational therapist for the pain caused by the injury. The injury or compressed nerve can trigger severe pain. Therefore, the therapist can help you learn certain exercises. Performing it can improve the symptoms associated with the problem.


Your doctor can suggest taking medication to relieve the discomfort you can encounter between the shoulder blades. The medications mostly include anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) or steroids (oils or injection form). It helps with the pain and inflammation you can suffer. At times, your doctor suggests taking muscle relaxers to overcome the discomfort. For some condition involving the back of your shoulder, the doctor suggests antidepressants.

Invasive Surgery

In rare cases, you may require surgery to treat the shoulder blade pain. It is advised for severe back shoulder pain or a treatable injury. The skilled surgeons can repair tendons or remove scar tissue in the shoulder or the back area (upper side). Only 10% of the cases need the invasive surgical option to treat the condition. The majority of people suffering from shoulder blade pain can get relief by opting non-surgical methods.

Tips To Prevent Back Shoulder Pain

Is it possible to prevent your back shoulder pain? With some preventive steps, you can overcome problems with your shoulder blade. It will help you prevent the unwanted distress associated with the issue. So, take the following measure to prevent the pain in your shoulder blades:

Good Posture

Practicing good posture can help you prevent several ailments in your body. The right posture will prevent unwanted pressure or stress on your muscles. Therefore, you need to avoid slouching. Try to sit or stand tall. You can purchase special chair like an ergonomic chair to sit properly. You can also use a special pillow to aid in the spinal as well as neck alignment.

Avoid Lifting Heavy Items

Lifting heavy items can lead to injuries of your shoulder blades. Therefore, try not to lift heavy weights. It can trigger pain between your shoulder blades. Do not carry bags that are heavy on one side of the shoulder. It can put stress on that particular side of the muscles. Never bend and lift any heavy objects. Try to bend your knees before lifting. It will avoid putting too much pressure on your back. So, by taking precaution, you can avoid any injuries to your back shoulder.

Never Sit For Too Long

You must never sit at the same place for too long as your muscles can become rigid. Therefore, you need to get up and stretch. Walk around for some time while sitting on your work or computer desk. The walk and stretching can keep your muscles loose.

Adopt Healthy Habits

You need to adopt healthy habits to avoid any health complication including back shoulder pain. A healthy lifestyle can strengthen your immune system and keep your muscles strong. It also prevents any inflammation of joints or muscles. So, you can follow the pointer suggested below for a healthy lifestyle:

  • Try to eat only whole foods as it contains necessary vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You need to minimize the intake of processed foods as it causes adverse effects on your body.
  • Sleep for at least seven to eight hours a day. It will help your body relax and get the necessary rest needed to rejuvenate. So, it will reduce the risk of any muscle problems worsening.
  • Include exercise in your schedule. You need to work out on at least three days a week. The physical exercise will help blood circulation in your body. So, it keeps you fit and healthy.
  • The healthy lifestyle will make you feel rested. So, you can regain your energy and manage any pain better.


You can get relief from back shoulder pain depending on the cause problem triggering it and its severity. With your doctor’s help, you can understand the underlying issue that causes the problem. So, you need to get treatment based on the issue. The temporary problems can go with proper treatment and by resting. But, some shoulder blade pain may require lifelong management. You can also experience pain for a long time. But, getting proper medical assistance can manage the issue to a great extent.

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