Your shoulder blades, or the scapula, are two flat bones along each side of the top of your back. They are connected to your humerus- or upper arm bones- and your clavicle- or collar bone- as well as to the muscles that are located in your arms, neck, and upper back. There are lots of things that cause shoulder blade pain, including the condition of fibromyalgia.
The condition of fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain- which is pain that is felt throughout your entire body.
In addition, you may feel fatigue- even upon waking- anxiety/depression, and a host of other signs and symptoms. There is a list of diagnostic criteria that your physician will walk you through before he or she assigns you this diagnosis.
Causes of Shoulder Blade Pain
If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder blades, it could be due to overuse of your shoulder, pinched nerves in your spine, psychological distress, bad posture, disorders of your chest, disorders of your abdominal organs, or lung disease.
Following are some of the typical things that cause pain in each side and in both. However, this list is not all-inclusive. There are things that are not on this list that could be causing your shoulder blade pain.
If you are not able to get it under control with rest and at-home treatments, you should see your physician.
Right Scapula Pain: the things that could be causing pain in your right scapula include liver cancer, rupture of your stomach, rupture of your spleen, rupture of your appendix, gallstones, pelvic inflammatory disease (referred to as PID), rupture of an ovary or ovarian tube (such as in an ectopic pregnancy).
Left Scapula Pain: the things that could be causing pain in your left scapula include conditions related to your pancreas, conditions related to your heart, conditions related to your spleen, and irritable bowel syndrome (referred to as IBS).
Pain Between the Right and Left Scapula: the things that could be causing pain between the right and left scapula include esophageal cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, broken vertebrae (due to bone cancer or osteoporosis), g, gastritis, aortic dissection, or gastritis.
As you can see, some of the causes of pain in the scapula are pretty serious and will require that you seek the attention of your physician.
However, as mentioned, this list is not all-inclusive and just because you are experiencing pain, it’s no reason to panic.
Don’t Ignore Shoulder Blade Pain
Still, just because it may not necessarily be anything serious, shoulder blade pain is not something you should ignore- you definitely need to speak with your physician- especially if self-care measures are not working to relieve the pain.
If you injure your shoulder, of course, you can follow basic first aid and apply ice and rest the affected shoulder. On the other hand, if you cannot think of a reason you would have injured yourself, it’s time to call a physician.
Experts say that you should even take intermittent shoulder blade discomfort seriously. It is possible that there is a pattern such as emotional upset, exertion, or even excitement that it could be related to.
For example, if you notice the pain when you’re doing something such as gardening, but it dissipates when you sit down to rest, it’s most likely angina. Also, this is typically much worse in very cold or very hot weather.
Keep in mind that in women, the pain is often much more subtle. When it comes to heart disease in women, it can appear as gastrointestinal symptoms such as discomfort in the abdomen, GI distress, or bloating. In addition, women often feel fatigued- which can often be mistaken as a symptom of fibromyalgia.
After menopause, a woman’s risk of heart disease increases dramatically. This condition kills more women than it does men, even though men are at an increased risk for it at any age.
Therefore, women need to be closely monitored for signs and symptoms- including pain in the scapula.
While pain between your shoulder blades is most likely arthritis, according to experts, it’s still possible that it could be something more serious such as abdominal issues or even a heart attack.
One of the biggest dangers is an aortic dissection, which can present as a sudden or a nagging pain.
Individuals who have conditions such as diabetes, a history of issues with circulation, high blood pressure, and those who are smokers are at an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack.
Self-Treatment for Shoulder Pain
If you are experiencing minor shoulder blade pain that is due to something minor such as overuse or even a mild injury, self-care measures can be quite effective.
Following are three of the most common self-care measures for shoulder blade pain:
- OTC Pain Relievers such as naproxen sodium, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen can be helpful.
- Avoiding using your shoulders in ways that trigger the pain or cause it to be worse can be effective.
- Using an ice pack on the affected area for about 20 minutes at a time a few times each day can be helpful for relieving pain.
On the other hand, if you have a shoulder blade injury that is accompanied by the following, you should have someone drive you to the nearest emergency room or urgent care location:
- The joint appears to be deformed in some way
- You are unable to move your arm away from your body
- Inability to use the joint
- Sudden swelling of the joint and around the joint
- Intense pain in and around the joint
Finally, if you have any tenderness, warmth, redness, or swelling around your shoulder blade, you should make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible, as there could be something more serious going on.
While it is true that some of the widespread pain of fibromyalgia can have an effect on your shoulder blade pain, it’s also true that it could be so much more.
Keep in mind that the condition of fibromyalgia is not curable- but the signs and symptoms are treatable.