Upper back pain between shoulder blades:Causes, symptoms and treatments

back pain between shoulder blades

The upper back is home to many muscles that help with arm, neck and shoulder movements.

Upper back pain can result from injuries to these muscles. This can feel like a dull ache, or a sharp pain.


Certain forms of exercise can increase the chance of injuring your upper back.

Muscle strain can be caused by lifting weights, throwing a ball over your shoulder, or performing swimming strokes. Muscle strain is common when you repeat these movements repeatedly.

Muscle strain can also manifest as weakness, swelling, or cramps.

A mild strain can be treated with rest, ice and pain relief. Most mild strains will heal in a matter of weeks.

The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), can be used to reduce swelling and pain. Avoid activities that stress the back muscles.

ice pack can be used for up to 20 minutes each hour to reduce swelling and pain. Regularly moving your shoulders can reduce stiffness.


Pain between the shoulder blades can result from how someone stands. The following positions can put strain on the muscles of your upper back:

  • Sitting at a desk all day is not a good idea.
  • Uncomfortable chairs
  • Long periods of time leaned over a laptop
  • When you are seated, cross your legs

These positions can lead to a dull ache between your shoulder blades.

The pain can be eased by gently stretching the upper back muscles. To reduce stiffness, people can roll their shoulders forward and backward. It might help to link your hands behind your back and pull the arms down gently.


Tension can cause muscle tension. Tension can be felt in the neck, shoulders and between the shoulder blades.

If the shoulders are tightened for a prolonged time, stress can cause headaches.

Reduce stress by addressing the root causes, exercising regularly, and having a supportive network.

Lifting and carrying

Lifting or carrying something heavy can strain your upper back. When lifting, pushing or pulling items, it is important to practice safe lifting techniques.

A shoulder bag can put weight on your shoulders and pull on the muscles between your shoulder blades. The upper back and arms can be strain by carrying heavy shopping bags.

To avoid too much weight on the shoulders, people can choose backpacks with two straps. This spreads weight evenly and allows for only essential items. To avoid having to carry multiple heavy bags, it is possible to make more than one trip.

Injury to the muscles

Pain between the shoulder blades can result from injury to the muscles of the upper back.

Exercise, lifting heavy objects, and falling can all lead to injuries. Tears can cause severe pain.

The shoulder blade is attached to the arm by the rotator-cuff muscles. The injury to one or more of these muscles may cause pain in the shoulder and upper back. These injuries can also make it difficult to move the arm or shoulder.

Mild or moderate muscle tears can be treated with rest, ice packs, and strengthening exercises. Sometimes, doctors may recommend steroid injections to reduce swelling.

About 20% of rotator-cuff injuries require surgery to reattach tendon.


Scoliosis refers to a condition where the spine curves in one direction. The appearance of a person’s hips or shoulders may be slightly uneven. One shoulder might even stick out.

Scoliosis is not always a cause of back pain. Exercise can help strengthen the muscles of the upper back, shoulders, and neck. This can help reduce strain and pain.

Myofascial pain syndrome

Myofascial Pain Syndrome is a chronic condition that causes pain in certain muscle groups. Pain does not spread throughout the body, unlike other chronic pain conditions.

Pain in the trigger point of a muscle can cause it to become painful. It can cause pain in the upper back and the muscles surrounding the spine, neck, shoulders.

Laser therapy, injections of steroids, lifestyle changes and massage are all possible treatments.


Osteoarthritis can develop from gradual wear and tear on the joints. It can lead to stiffness, pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the joints.

Overusing or injuring the joints can increase your riskTrusted Source for osteoarthritis.

Many people work in jobs that require them to lift heavy objects or reach overhead. This type of work can cause osteoarthritis in the shoulder joint and lower back pain later in your life.



Good posture and strong muscles in the shoulders, upper back, and neck can prevent pain between the shoulder blades.

A comfortable chair can be a great option for people who work long hours at a computer. The spine should be kept in a natural position, without pushing the neck forward or hunching the shoulders.

Regular exercise can help you maintain a moderate body weight. This reduces the strain on your back.

Tension in the shoulders and upper back can be caused by stress. Stretching and yoga can ease tight muscles.



It’s easy to strain the muscles of the upper back and create pain between your shoulder blades. The most common causes include leaning over a computer, carrying heavy bags or sitting for prolonged periods in an uncomfortably uncomfortable position.

Upper back pain is usually mild. Some more severe conditions can cause pain between your shoulder blades. For symptoms such as scoliosis, osteoarthritis or a muscle tear, it is important to consult a physician.

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