10 Best Stretches and Tips to Relieve Upper Back Pain in Between Shoulder Blades
Experiencing pain between the shoulder blades is a common issue that many adults face. This form of pain is referred to by specialists as inter-scapular pain. Individuals who deal with shoulder pain frequency have an aching, dull, sore or shooting pain in the upper area of their back.
Typically shoulder blade pain isn’t something that you should be too concerned about. The pain can often be treated with over-the-counter medication. However, there are some circumstances where your upper back pain could be due to a more serious condition.
What Causes Shoulder Blade Pain?
There are several reasons why you may experience mild to moderate pain between your shoulder blades. The most common reason is an injury to a tendon or muscle in this area. A muscle strain can be caused by:
- Poor posture
- Heavy lifting
- Sitting at a desk for a long period
It’s possible to strain the muscles of your upper back in other ways, but these are the most common reasons for interscapular pain.
Injuries to different areas of the body such as a spine fracture or rotator cuff tears can also cause trauma which leads to shoulder blade pain.
Additional causes of upper back and shoulder blade pain include the following.
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated disc
- Bulging disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Acid reflux
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Various cancers such as lung cancer, liver cancer, lymphomas, esophageal cancer, mesothelioma and cancers that spread to the bones.
5 Tips for Eliminating Shoulder Blade Pain
If you have ever dealt with mild to moderate pain in the area between your shoulder blades, you know that it never seems to go away for good no matter what you seem to do. But, depending on the exact cause of your pain, it is possible to completely eliminate some forms of upper back pain and shoulder blade discomfort.
The amount of time that it will take to reduce or completely eliminate the pain between your shoulder blades varies. Unfortunately there is nothing that will fix this pain overnight. Staying persistent with exercises and stretches for upper back pain between the shoulder blades is a great place to start. By working on the problem when it is mild and manageable, you are less likely to develop bigger issues with your upper back pain in the future.
- Stretch Between the Shoulder Blades
By stretching these overactive muscles, you will help them to relax and reduce the pain between your shoulder blades.
- Hold an exercise ball in front of you.
- Wrap your arms around the ball as far as you can.
- Hunch your upper back as much as possible while pushing your hands away from you.
- Look down
- Aim to feel a stretch in the area where you feel the most pain. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat two times.
- Apply Heat
Heat is excellent for relaxing the muscles in between your shoulder blades. Consider taking a hot shower or applying heat for at least 10 minutes at a time.
- Do Shoulder Pumps
This exercise can help you warm up your muscles while also reducing pain.
- Place both hands (with elbows forward) on the sides of your head.
- Bring your elbows all the way back. Be sure to squeeze the muscles in between your shoulder blades as firm as you can.
- Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 30 times.
- Stretch the Thoracic Spine
This can help to place the shoulder blade muscles in a better position.
- Using a rolled up towel or a foam roller, place it in the middle of the thoracic spine.
- While supporting your head using your hands behind your neck, roll your body weight onto the foam roller.
- Arch the thoracic area backward.
- Maintain this pose for one minute.
- Avoid Aggravating Factors
Take a moment to think about where you are experiencing the most pain. Many people experience pain between their shoulder blades when they are seated in front of their computer. You can resolve this issue by making sure your workstation is optimized for better posture. Consider investing in a chair designed to improve posture or buy a new desk that is the correct height.
7 Simple Stretches for Upper Back Pain Between the Shoulder Blades
These stretches when performed daily can help to significantly reduce the level of pain you experience from overworked back muscles.
This stretch works on the shoulders, chest, and upper back.
- Stand straight with your arms by your side and feet shoulder width apart.
- Slowly rotate your shoulders forward, making large circles.
- Repeat this movement backward until set is complete
This exercise can help you warm up your muscles and improve the blood flow in the target area.
- Place your fingertips on your shoulders.
- Slowly, but forcefully, draw large circles with your elbows in an up-back-down motion.
- Be sure to squeeze the muscles between your shoulder blades as firm as you can.
- Try to contract the area where you feel the most pain.
- Repeat 30 times.
Massage Ball Release
Taking the time to massage the area of the pain between the shoulder blades can ease the tension going through your muscles. To do this on your own, all you need is a massage ball.
- Place the ball at the site of the pain in between your shoulder blades.
- Apply as much body weight as needed over the ball.
- In increase the release, move your arm in an up and down motion and target those painful areas.
- The tighter or more overactive the muscle is, the more pain you will experience but you need to keep going to make the pain eventually go away.
- Do this exercise for 3 to 5 minutes.
Upper Trapezius Stretch
This type of muscle stretch can help to reduce the tension in these opposing tight muscles and will also reduce the effects of overactivity of the shoulder blade muscles.
- Tilt your head to the side.
- Feel a deep stretch between the side of the neck and the top of your shoulders.
- Increase the stretch by pulling your head further to your shoulders.
- Hold this for at least 30 seconds and repeat two times.
Serratus Anterior Release
This is another muscle stretch similar to the Upper Trapezius Stretch that can help release tension. The Serratus Anterior is located on the side of your rib cage.
- Locate the serratus anterior and place it on top of a foam roller.
- Use your body weight to apply pressure directly to the muscle. Gently circle around the area.
- Repeat this for 30 to 60 seconds.
Tight chest muscles will often pull your shoulder blade out of alignment, causing pain. You can eliminate this my doing a simple chest stretch.
- Place both of your hands high up on a wall before you.
- Lean into your hands firmly while squeezing your shoulder blades down.
- You will feel a stretch at the front of your chest.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 1-3 times.
Wall Angel Movement
- This stretch can help to strengthen your postural muscles. These are the muscles responsible for correct shoulder blade placement.
- Stand with your back to the wall and keep your back and arms pulled backwards. Remain in contact with the wall throughout all your movement.
- Place your arms in a ‘W’ starting position.
- Transition to the “I” end position.
- Repeat 10 times.
3 Poses to Relieve Pain in Between the Shoulder Blades
Yoga is known for its many physical and mental health benefits. Here are three great poses that you can try which can help you relieve pain between your shoulder blades.
This pose can be very beneficial because it strengthens the posterior chain, which includes the back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. It opens up the chest as well as the fronts of the shoulders while improving posture and realigning the shoulders and shoulder blades.
To perform this beginner yoga move:
- Lie face down on a mat with your feet hip-width apart and your arms resting by your sides. Palms should be facing up.
- Lift your chest, hands, arms and feet off the mat while drawing your shoulders back.
- Push through the balls of your feet and look straight down at the mat.
- Hold this pose for 5 deep breaths. Then take a deep breath in, exhale, come down to the mat and rest one cheek on the mat.
- Rock your hips from side to side to release your lower back.
- Bring your hands underneath your shoulders and push back to the Child’s pose.
Upward Facing Plank Prep
The Upward Facing Plank Prep opens up the chest and helps to stretch the fronts of the shoulders. It strengthens your hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, abs, hips, glutes, legs, feet and ankles while also improving posture. This intermediate yoga pose can help to reduce upper back and shoulder pain.
To perform this yoga pose:
- Sit on the mat with your legs out in front of you, feet together. Position your hands around six to twelve inches behind you. Try pointing your fingertips forward.
- Externally rotate your shoulders and squeeze shoulder blades together to open up your chest.
- Lift your hips all the way up and look at the ceiling without allowing your head to drop back. Continue pressing into your palms and don’t allow your hips to drop.
- Hold the pose for 5 deep breaths in and out through the nose. Come down carefully on the last exhale.
Cow Face Arms
This yoga pose may be a bit complicated for beginners, but it can be very useful with reducing shoulder blade pain.
- Come to a Hero pose by sitting down between your heels on the mat.
- Inhale lift your right arm up alongside your ear. Exhale and bend your elbow, placing your right hand between your shoulder blades, palm flat to your back.
- Sweep your left hand behind you, palm facing out and attempt to bring your fingertips together, so they touch or grab each other. If you are unable to join fingers, hold onto a strap or towel with both hands. Do not force the stretch.
- Draw your abs in sit up tall and stare straight ahead. Be sure that your shoulders are level and your spine is not bending to the right or left.
- Draw your left shoulder back and feel the stretch across the front of your left shoulder. You may need to bring your hands farther apart to do this.
- Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, in and out through the nose and deep into your abdomen
- Release the pose and switch sides.
Shoulder Blade Pain Prevention Tips
Living with ongoing upper back pain can cause serious issues with your daily life. Aside from being uncomfortable, this type of pain may cause you to miss out on important activities, limit your focus at work, and make you feel miserable overall.
- To prevent shoulder blade pain, you should learn and practice good posture. This should be done whether you are sitting, standing, or moving. Good posture is one of the most important factors when it comes to eliminating the most common types of back pain.
- Exercising regularly is another factor that can help you reduce or prevent shoulder blade pain. Try out a cardio workout or strength training for best results.
- Maintaining a normal and healthy weight can help prevent many forms of back pain.
- If you smoke, stopping can also help reduce your back pain.
- Improving your diet by adding more foods with vital nutrients such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains can prevent pain.
- You should also remember to take care of your body while at work to avoid putting too much stress on your back or spine.
When to See a Doctor
If you are experiencing severe pain between your shoulder blades, you should make an appointment with your doctor. The strong pain could be a sign that something worse than general back pain is going on. But even if your pain isn’t that serious, if it concerns you, you should still see a doctor to provide yourself with peace of mind.
Any time that your shoulder blade pain is accompanied by specific symptoms like the following, it could be a sign of a serious or life-threatening issue.
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Vision loss
- Paralysis on one side of your body
- Loss of consciousness
- Pain, swelling or redness in your legs
The treatment you receive for your shoulder blade pain will depend on the cause of the pain and how severe it is. The recovery time will also vary from one individual to the next. By listening to your doctor’s advice and trying out the helpful exercises for upper back pain between the shoulder blades, you should begin to notice a great improvement in the amount of pain you feel each day.