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Upper Back Pain Between The Shoulder Blades: A Simple Guide To Causes And Relief

Do you suffer from upper back pain between the shoulder blades? You're not alone! An article in Forbes magazine places the rate as high as one in 10 men and one in 5 women who struggle with upper back pain.

Upper back pain can range from mildly uncomfortable to distressingly debilitating. In this article we take a look at this condition, what might be causing it, and how you can get the relief you are looking for.

LivaFortis looks at upper back pain between the shoulders and what causes it.

Understanding Upper Back Pain: It's More Than Just a Nuisance

Ever wondered what's behind that pesky upper back pain between your shoulder blades? It turns out, it could be a bunch of things, from everyday muscle strain to more serious health issues.

Interscapular pain is the technical term that healthcare professionals use when talking about upper back pain that happens between your shoulder blades.

Dr. Dean Padavan, M.D. is the associate program director of the primary care sports medicine fellowship at Atlantic Health System in New Jersey. According to Dr. Padavan "Pain in the upper back and shoulders can usually be attributed to muscles and nerves connecting to the thoracic or cervical spine.".

LivaFortis looks at the causes of interscapular pain

What Causes Upper Back Pain Between The Shoulder Blades?

Possible Culprits: What's Hiding Behind the Pain?

  1. Muscle Strain: Feeling sore? You might have pulled a muscle—super common! Muscle strain is actually the most common cause of upper back pain between the shoulder blades. Bad posture, heavy lifting, repetitive twisting, or even a not-so-supportive mattress could be the culprits here.

  2. Herniated or Bulging Discs: Disc trouble? Degenerative disc disease might be pressing on (or irritating) the nerves in your spine, causing that nagging pain. If you have numbness, tingling or pain in your arms then you might have degenerative disc disease.

degenerative disc disease can cause pain between the shoulder blades

3. Heart Matters: Yep, heart issues (like heart attacks) can sneakily show up as shoulder blade pain, especially in women. Research shows that heart attacks show up very differently between men and women and for women the symptoms aren't always what you think they might be.

4. Cancer Concerns: While less common, certain cancers, like lung cancer, could be sending pain signals between your shoulder blades. If you have any tumors on your body they could push on the nerves towards the top of your lungs, causing pain between the shoulder blades.

problems with the gall bladder can cause pain between the shoulder blades

5. Gallbladder Drama: That stabbing pain after a heavy meal? Gallbladder issues might be playing a part. Typically gallbladder pain is felt as a sharp, stabbing pain between the shoulder blades and pain in the upper right quadrant of your abdomen. You might also be feeling some nausea. If you have these symptoms you should definitely speak with your healthcare provider to rule out gallbladder issues.

6. Arthritis: Arthritis in the neck or the ribs can be a cause of interscapular pain, even if you don't have any obvious pain in your neck.

There are lots of possible causes of back pain between the shoulders

Other Causes Of Pain Between The Shoulder Blades

While these are some of the most common causes of upper back pain there are a few other things that can cause this issue.

Some other relatively common causes include:

Most of these conditions are fairly serious and should be inspected by your doctor as soon as possible.

you should see your doctor if you have any concerning symptoms with your upper back pain.

When to Seek Help: Listening to Your Body

Got persistent pain or funky symptoms? It might be time to consult the experts. This is especially true if you are dealing with symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, or if you are feeling lightheaded—don't wait, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. And hey, if your gut says something's off, trust it!

see your doctor for a proper upper back pain diagnosis

Diagnosis and Treatment

Meeting with your healthcare provider? They'll likely ask about when the pain started, how it feels, and if anything makes it better or worse. Be honest—it helps! The more information your doctor has the more informed diagnosis they can make. This is true for any medical issue.

To make the most accurate diagnosis your doctor should take a full medical history and they may even suggest imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs to pinpoint the issue.

stretching is one way to address pain in the upper back

Treating Upper Back Pain

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your pain. If your pain is related to muscle strain, this may include:

You might also be advised to avoid activities that put strain on the area can relieve the pain and help you recover. 

More serious conditions such as a rotator cuff injury may require surgery. If your pain is caused by something unrelated to the structures in the shoulder or back, such as a heart condition, you may require interventions like medication or lifestyle changes.

exercise and stretching can help relieve upper back pain

Optimal Treatments: Tailored Solutions for Your Comfort

  1. Muscle Strain TLC: Over-the-counter pain relievers, smart stretches, and keeping an eye on your posture can do wonders.

  2. Disc Dilemmas: Physical therapy and targeted exercises might be the superhero moves you need.

  3. Heart Matters: Immediate medical action, with meds and lifestyle tweaks, could be the game-changer.

  4. Cancer Vigilance: If it's a cancer concern, a comprehensive approach, including surgery or therapy, might be on the horizon.

  5. Gallbladder Gripe: Lifestyle changes and maybe a chat with your healthcare provider can help sort out gallbladder issues.

managing your upper back pain can be relatively easy with the right guidance


Experiencing upper back pain between the shoulder blades is actually pretty common. It could be due to a simple muscle strain or it could be something more serious that might need a bit more attention and a consult with your healthcare provider.

When it comes to back pain it is always good to trust your instincts, seek help when needed, and let's work towards a pain-free you!

Remember: Your well-being is top priority. If symptoms are severe or things just don't feel right, don't hesitate to reach out for medical advice. Because a happy, healthy you is the ultimate goal!


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