Pain between the shoulder blades is common. Doctors refer to this discomfort as interscapular pain. People with shoulder blade pain typically have aching, dull, sore, or shooting pain in the upper part of their back between their shoulder blades.
Most of the time, shoulder blade pain isn’t anything to worry about. But in some cases, it can be a sign of a more serious condition.
Keep reading to learn more about this common problem and how you can prevent it.
There are many possible causes Trusted Source for pain between your shoulder blades.
An injury to a muscle or tendon is a common reason for this type of pain. Muscle strains can result from:
- heavy lifting
- poor posture
- working at a computer for extended periods of time
- other activities
Sometimes, you can even strain a muscle during sleep.
Injuries to other parts of your body, such as rotator cuff tears, spine fractures, or other injuries that cause trauma, can also lead to pain between your shoulder blades.
Other causes for shoulder blade pain include:
- degenerative disc disease, or a herniated or bulging disc in the spine
- osteoarthritis in the joints around your neck, spine, or ribs
- spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of your spinal cord
- acid reflux
- myofascial pain syndrome
- certain cancers, such as lung cancer, lymphomas, liver cancer, esophageal cancer, mesothelioma, and cancers that spread to bones
- nerve compression
- gallstone, which is often accompanied by nausea and pain in the upper right part of your abdomen
Shoulder blade pain is sometimes a symptom of heart attack, especially among women Trusted Source. Other signs, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, may also be present. You should seek emergency medical treatment if you experience these symptoms.
Thoracic aorta rupture or aortic dissection occurs when you have a tear or rupture in the inner layer of the large blood vessel that branches off your heart. That can cause a sharp, severe pain in your upper middle back. If this happens, you should call your local emergency services right away, as an aortic tear is considered a medical emergency.
Pulmonary embolism is another serious condition that can cause shoulder blade pain. Some people report a sudden, sharp pain in their shoulder blades when blood clots in their legs break off and travel to their lungs. Shortness of breath is also a symptom of pulmonary embolism. Seek medical help right away if you think you have a pulmonary embolism.
When you should see a doctor
You should see a doctor if your pain is severe Trusted Source, unusual, or doesn’t go away. Pain is a sign that something could be wrong. Your condition might not be serious, but if it’s bothersome in any way, you may want to get it checked out.
If your shoulder blade pain is accompanied by certain symptoms, it could mean you have a life-threatening condition that requires prompt medical attention. Seek help right away if you have pain between your shoulder blades along with the following:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- excessive sweating
- pain, swelling, or redness in your legs
- coughing up blood
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- sudden difficulty speaking
- loss of vision
- paralysis on one side of your body
- loss of consciousness
Treatment for your shoulder blade pain will depend on the cause and severity of your condition. Recovery time will vary from person to person.