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Can Pain Between the Shoulder Blades Be a Spine Issue?

pain between the shoulder bladesIf you experience pain between your shoulder blades, there could be many different causes, including strained muscles resulting from poor posture, heavy lifting, or even working at a computer for extended periods of time. This pain could also result from injuries like rotator cuff tears, shoulder dislocation, and spine fractures

If you’ve tried improving your posture, and you’ve worked at strengthening and stretching the muscles of the upper back, and you continue to experience this pain, it’s probably time to seek medical attention.

With respect to the spine, it’s important to understand that a disc herniation in the lower cervical spine can sometimes radiate pain into or near the shoulder blade area. Injuries to the vertebrae, the discs between the vertebrae, or the joints between the ribs and the vertebrae may all cause pain between the shoulder blades.

If your issue turns out to be fractures of the spine, you may need to be treated with bracing or surgical stabilization. Inflammatory conditions of the spine like back arthritis or a herniated disc often require medical or surgical management, depending on the severity of the condition and the ways its impacts your daily activities.

Scapular Dyskinesis

If you find that your issue is that your shoulder blades are not stable, you may be experiencing a shoulder disorder called scapular dyskinesis. This is the loss of normal range of motion in the shoulder blades. In some cases, this is a condition of its own. Other times, scapular dyskinesis is a symptom of another health condition or injury.

Scapular dyskinesis is relatively easy to identify because it causes the shoulder blades to stick out abnormally, either during rest or activity. It’s important to be aware that even though this condition itself may not be painful, it can leave you at a higher risk of more serious injury.

Here are the issues that can contribute to scapular dyskinesis:

  • Damage to the nerves
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Damage to muscles
  • Weakness in the core, hips, or legs
  • Weak bones or bone fractures‌
  • Damage to the joints

The most common symptoms of scapular dyskinesis are:

  • Pain or tenderness around the shoulder blade, especially when raising the arms overhead or lifting something heavy
  • Feeling a pop with shoulder movement
  • Losing strength in the affected arm and shoulder
  • Changes in your posture, usually one side sagging down
  • Shoulder blades sticking out and looking like wings
  • Feeling like your shoulder blade is out of place ‌

Most of the time, the issues caused by scapular dyskinesis will be improved by:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
  • A physical therapy exercise program that strengthens the muscles that stabilize and move the scapula, and stretching routines that tighten the muscles that are limiting scapular motion.

If, however, when dyskinesis is caused by an injury to the shoulder joint, your doctor may need to perform a procedure to repair or reconstruct the injured tissues. This will be followed by rehabilitation to restore the scapula’s normal motion.


*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery