Pain Between the Shoulder Blades: Preventing and Healing Upper Back Pain

Have you ever experienced pain in your upper back or between your shoulder blades? Then you are certainly not alone. Every year, countless people report with back problems, with lower back pain ranking number 1. Wherever you have back pain, it is simply very annoying and usually limits you in your daily activities. For example, at work or during sports. Pain between the shoulder blades is also called “upper back pain.” For some, it feels like a mild irritation, while for others, it feels like heavy pressure on the shoulders or a stabbing pain. When upper back pain is not properly treated, it can develop into chronic back pain. Naturally, you want to prevent that!

In this blog, we delve deeper into the causes of pain between the shoulder blades, symptoms, and provide tips for relief.

The function of your shoulder blades

The shoulders and shoulder blades are important parts of our musculoskeletal system. They play a role in various movements, such as lifting, rotating, and swinging the arms. The shoulders also provide stability in the upper body and support the neck and upper back. The shoulder blade, also called the scapula, serves as the basis for muscle attachment and exerting strength. This is a flat, triangular bone at the back of the rib cage.

Then there’s the shoulder joint, the connection between the shoulder blade and the upper arm. This is a ball-and-socket joint, allowing your arm to move in different directions. The shoulder joint is kept in balance by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Some important muscles are:

  • Deltoid muscle: This muscle covers the shoulder and helps lift the arm.
  • Trapezius: This muscle stretches across the back and neck and assists in rotating and lifting the shoulder blades.
  • Rhomboids: These muscles are located between the shoulder blades and help pull the shoulder blades together.
  • Serratus anterior: This muscle lies along the side of the ribs and helps stabilize the shoulder blade during movements.

It’s a complex system that relies on a good balance of strength, stability, and mobility to function normally. Problems in this movement system, such as muscle tension or joint issues, result in pain and discomfort between the shoulder blades.

Causes of Pain Between the Shoulder Blades

The most common causes of painful upper back are poor posture, overuse, and stress. For example, prolonged sitting with a rounded back, working at a computer. Or emotional stress that manifests in your shoulders, resulting in tense muscles. It often starts as discomfort or nagging pain that, if left untreated, worsens and becomes more painful. The longer you wait, the longer it takes to heal. In certain professions and sectors, such as construction and logistics, you are more likely to experience upper back pain. Pay special attention to:

  • lifting and carrying
  • quickly repeated arm movements
  • applying a lot of force with your hands
  • pushing and pulling
  • working above shoulder height

Upper back pain is mainly felt between your shoulder blades, but sometimes you also experience discomfort in the area around your ribs, chest, or the base of your neck. The pain between your shoulder blades may be constantly present or only noticeable during a certain movement or activity.

Upper Back Pain During Pregnancy

This is a discomfort that many pregnant women experience due to changes in their bodies. The increasing weight of the uterus and the baby exert extra pressure on the spine and surrounding muscles, which can cause pain between the shoulder blades. Changes in posture and center of gravity, as well as hormonal changes, contribute to back pain during pregnancy.

Preventing Pain Between the Shoulder Blades

Prevention is better than cure. Small adjustments can make a big difference and prevent you from experiencing upper back pain:

  • Ensure an ergonomic workspace.
  • Take regular breaks from prolonged sitting.
  • Avoid carrying heavy bags on one shoulder.
  • Strengthen the muscles in the upper back through targeted strength training exercises.
  • Listen to your body to prevent overuse.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to avoid extra pressure on muscles and joints.
  • Pay attention to your posture, keep your back straight, and relax your shoulders.

Tips to Relax a Painful Upper Back

If you still experience pain between your shoulder blades or a tense upper back, these tips help alleviate the pain:

  • Regularly do gentle exercises, such as the cat-cow exercise.
  • Place a tennis ball between the wall and the painful spot, roll for relief.
  • Book a relaxing massage or targeted massage.
  • Take it easy for a few days.
  • Try breathing exercises to relax the muscles in the upper back.
  • Reduce muscle tension with yoga and stay flexible.
  • Take a warm bath or place a warm compress on the painful spot.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your muscles hydrated.

Treating Painful Shoulders with Chiropractic Care

Are you experiencing pain between your shoulder blades, difficulty moving your shoulders, or other back problems? If the cause is (temporary) overuse, the symptoms usually go away on their own. If you continue to experience discomfort or if your upper back pain worsens, then visiting a chiropractor is a good idea. At Avant-Garde Chiropractic in Haarlem, we are here for you.

During an initial consultation, we examine the cause of the pain and delve into your medical history. One of our experienced chiropractors then checks for muscle and joint blockages. Afterward, we develop a personalized treatment plan. With chiropractic care, we ensure that your body works optimally, in a natural way. A literal ‘push in the back’ to improve your posture and relax muscles. Additionally, we provide advice and exercises to help relieve pain between the shoulder blades. Here’s to a healthy life without pain!

Want to experience the benefits of chiropractic care yourself? Make an appointment for an initial consultation. You don’t need a referral from your doctor for this.


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