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Shoulder blade pain

According to Harvard Medical, your shoulder joint is vulnerable to wear and tear — especially as you age. This can lead to muscle strain and reduced mobility.

What causes pain in your shoulder blade and how it can be treated?

Shoulder pain can affect different parts of your shoulder from the right-side of your shoulder to the top of your shoulder. But shoulder pain in your shoulder blade, also known as your scapula, can have many possible causes from bursitis to a scapula injury. A scapula (shoulder blade) injury includes fractures, severe bruising and injuries to your tendon (the cords of tissue that connect your muscle to your bone). The NHS explains a scapula injury can be the result of a high-impact trauma such as a road accident or a fall from a height. 

We explain the common causes of scapula pain and how a specialist could help diagnose and treat your pain. 

Your shoulder blade (also known as your scapula) is a triangular-shaped bone that connects your upper arm bone (humerus) and your collar bone (clavicle). The upper part of your humerus is shaped like a ball. It sits inside a shallow socket in your scapula, which is known as your glenoid

Studies show that your scapula attaches to three different muscle groups. These are:

  • Extrinsic muscles;
  • Intrinsic muscles, and
  • Stabilising muscles.

These three muscle groups help facilitate your regular arm and shoulder movements. When you move your arm above shoulder height, your shoulder blade rotates, which sometimes puts stress on your shoulder joint. This can lead to wear and tear, resulting in pain and reduced mobility in your shoulder blade.

While many people experience pain in or around their shoulder joint, others might experience pain in their shoulder blade (scapula) or between their shoulder blades. This pain can feel like a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing pain. The nature of your pain depends on the cause of your shoulder blade pain.

There are several reasons why you might experience pain in your shoulder blade or between your shoulder blades. These include:

  • Overuse: Too many overhead activities such as throwing, lifting, or stretching might cause muscle strain. This often results in pain and stiffness across your joints.
  • Poor posture: Poor posture (which often occurs when you sit with your shoulders hunched) might cause pain in your scapula. According to the NHS, poor posture causes muscle strain and imbalance. This often results in pain and stiffness.
  • Bursitis: Bursae are fluid-filled sacs within your joints. If the bursa that sits between your scapula and spine becomes inflamed, it can cause severe shoulder blade pain. Inflammation of your bursa is known as bursitis.
  • Fracture: A shoulder blade fracture happens when you experience direct trauma to your scapula. For example: an injury through a contact sport or a car crash. A shoulder blade fracture is rare and often extremely painful.

Your doctor will examine both of your shoulder blades to diagnose the cause of your shoulder blade pain. They will examine you for signs of stiffness and reduced mobility. They will also discuss the nature of your pain in detail to identify its cause.

You might need a shoulder X-Ray to diagnose your shoulder blade pain. Occasionally, an MRI scan or ultrasound might also be needed for accuracy purposes.

  • Pain relief medication: Paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen could ease your pain. You could even use an ibuprofen gel on your painful area. Before taking medication, you should speak with your doctor.
  • Rest: By resting as much as possible, you might find that your shoulder blade pain improves slowly. If it doesn’t, you should consider other treatment options.
  • Physiotherapy: A physiotherapist will teach you specialist shoulder blade stretches and exercises to strengthen your muscles, helping reduce your pain and improve your mobility. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists recommends several exercises to reduce shoulder pain.

Shoulder blade pain can impact your everyday life, because you use your shoulder joint so frequently.

It is important to remember that effective treatment options are available for shoulder blade pain. If you’re suffering from joint pain, we have many joint pain specialists who can help.

Book an appointment online to see a specialist shoulder Consultant at one of our nearest hospitals.