What Causes Pain Between Shoulder Blades?

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Shoulder blade is in the upper side of your back, the scapulae, which become prominent if you pull your elbows close to your trunk or extent your elbow towards your back, the triangular shaped bony prominence is called shoulder blade. Its basic function is to provide support to the shoulder girdle and helps in the movement of arms.

shoulder blade pain

It is particularly important because a slight pain in this region may indicate a slight disease like inflammation of scapula itself or the major diseases like lung cancer. Left side shoulder blade is prone to some diseases while others affect right side. Left side shoulder blade maybe hurt by the gall stones while the right side usually is influenced by more common heart diseases or lung diseases. The pain in this region is also important because most of the times it is a referred pain of some severe underlying disorder.

Most common causes are as follows:

Muscle strain: It is the most common direct cause of pain in shoulder blades. Most commonly results from over exercise or over doing any particular work out or trying something new in the gym to which your body is not accustomed to. Second most common cause is sleeping in a wrong position or in a new position, which usually tears rotator cuff muscles and it feels like usual muscle pull but it seizes the movement of arm and shoulder.

Cervical spondylosis: Commonly known as disc slip, particularly in the neck (cervical) region can compress the brachial plexus (nerve supply of the arm and shoulder) and results in severe pain.

Heart disorders: Aortic aneurism (rupture of the aorta) causes severe cutting pain in between the blades. While Myocardial infarction (heart attack) and pericarditis (inflammation of the covering of heart) cause left sided severe pain.

Shingles (Zoster): The counter part of chicken pox recurrence in latter life, caused by the same virus. Manifests as severe dermatomal pain (in a particular strip) usually appear after rashes for few days in the same region.

Metastatic tumors: Some tumors that find their way in different parts of the body might be a reason to cause pain in shoulder blade but this occurs in very rare cases.

  • Breast cancer.
  • Esophageal cancer.
  • Colon cancer.
  • Lung cancer.

These are few most common primary tumors which usually metastasize to scapula.

Pancoast tumor: A tumor resides on the upper pole of lungs usually causes deathly pain in the shoulder blades.

Arthritis: Arthritis of shoulder, shoulder blade or referred pain of cervical (neck) arthritis are the usual causes.

Osteoporosis: Thinning of the bones, usually shoulder, shoulder blades or neck can manifest as shoulder blades pain. Osteoporosis is common more in elder females due to the lack of estrogen that has a key role in calcium regulation.

Abdominal conditions: Any GIT disorder can manifest as shoulder blades pain, namely gallstones, peptic ulcers, and liver diseases. Pancreatitis usually causes left sided pain.

These were some of the causes of shoulder blade pain where there may be others too. If you are experiences shoulder blade pain, make sure you see a doctor to rule out the cause.


Dr.Mark Gomez is an accomplished orthopedic surgeon. He has a lot of experience in this remarkable medical specialty and he believes all the education and training that he has received is rewarding. He helps patients with the diagnosis of problems associated with musculoskeletal system.

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1 Comment on "What Causes Pain Between Shoulder Blades?"

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Bob Carlton
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Shingles that is cause by a virus could really be the reason for that Shoulder blade pain.

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