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Pain between Shoulder Blades – Causes and Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

There are individuals who will often become confused especially over the pain that is occurring between the shoulder blades. They often compare it with pain in the shoulder.


There are numerous joints around the neck that are made of tissues, bones and muscles that can cause pain between the shoulder blades.

Any type of complication that flares up in either the upper or lower part of the back is known as pain between the shoulder blades. The shoulder blades are known as scapula and any pain, occurring between the shoulder blades is in medical term called scapular pain.

Pain between Shoulder Blades Causes

There are numerous causes of pain in between the shoulder blades – some serious and others not so much.

Heart Attack

One of the definitive symptoms of an actual or impending heart attack especially in men is sharp pain in the shoulders, while women rather normally report scapular pain.

If anyone experiences scapular pain, together with below listed symptoms, call your primary care physician or 911 directly as your life could be at risk.

  • Pressure or squeezing chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Problems breathing
  • Chest discomfort that is recurring
  • Chest tightness
  • Indigestion as well as gas pain
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Pain radiating to neck, arms or shoulders
  • Unexplained fatigue or weakness
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Pain/discomfort in between shoulder blades

Gallstones/Gallbladder Disease

Although most pain caused by the gallbladder is usually felt in the upper right abdomen, it also can manifest as scapular pain or pain under the shoulder blade on the right.

The usual treatment for gallbladder problems is removal of the gallbladder by a procedure referred to as a “laparoscopy cholecystectomy”. This is the more popular method for the removal of the gallbladder due to the less pain post-surgery and its shorter stay in the hospital.

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Liver Cancer

Cancer of the liver or growth of cells in the liver that are abnormal, comes in two (2) kinds:

  • Primary – cancer that begins in the liver
  • Secondary – that begins elsewhere in the body and migrates to the liver

Cancer of the Esophagus

Cancer of the esophagus develops as tumors or growth of abnormal cells in the esophagus which is the passageway connecting the throat to the stomach. This cancer normally does not have any symptoms until the problem has advanced to the stage where it is too late to be cured. The major symptom is problem swallowing any food. There is a sensation occurring frequently of food becoming stuck in the chest or throat. And pain between the blades of the shoulder is another frequent symptom.

Naturally, scapular pain can just be caused by a muscle that is strained from working on the computer too long, stress, sleeping in the wrong position, or muscle injury due to sports, normal aches and pains or injury from exercise. It could even be a bra that is worn to tightly.

Pain between Shoulder Blades Treatment

The treatment of any pain, no matter where it occurs is to find the reason for the pain and treat that underlying cause. So the 1st step with any pain in the back or between the shoulder blades is to start eliminating what could be the cause and that should start with your sleep habits. Associated with that is making certain that you have a pillow that properly supports your neck.

Next is to reduce the amount of stress in your life that you might have had for years. Massage, yoga and exercise are all ways to reduce stress and perhaps pain in the back.

If stress relief and having proper sleeping habits do not solve the pain in the neck, back or between the shoulder blades, it might be best to at this time schedule an appointment with a medical professional. Your primary care physician can look for any severe underlying condition that could be causing the pain.

Pain is something affecting your entire being and the finding the remedy quickly is extremely important to the quality of your life.

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