Because the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, it’s designed to be very loose to allow for a wide range of motion. Since shoulders play a role in various upper body and arm movements, they’re also susceptible to injuries that may extend to the shoulder blades and the area under them that’s close to the spine. If you happen to be experiencing this type of discomfort, here’s what you can do about it.
With shoulder blade pain that gets worse with certain activities or movements, it can be helpful to give your upper back muscles a break for a few days. Doing so may give tissues within this area time to naturally heal and recover if the source of your pain is strained muscles or tendons or sprained ligaments. However, don’t rest too long. Prolonged periods of inactivity can weaken soft tissues in the shoulder and upper back.
Oftentimes, pain under the shoulder blade is related to inflamed muscles around the joint or in the upper back. If this is the case, you may experience relief with heat and ice applications. Cold eases inflammation, and heat increases circulation to promote tissue healing. With hot/cold therapy, it can be helpful to:
• Limit applications to 15–20 minutes at a time
• Avoid direct skin contact with the source of heat or cold
• Alternate ice/heat applications to get a better idea of what works best for you
Another way to manage the pain and/or inflammation that often goes along with shoulder blade discomfort is to use over-the-counter medications for a brief period. Common options include:
Keep in mind that medication won’t correct the underlying issues that may be causing your shoulder blade/upper back pain. If your symptoms continue after a few weeks of using over-the-counter meds, see what your doctor has to say. If your pain is due to a more serious issue, such as a herniated disc or fractured vertebrae, your doctor may recommend one of several surgical procedures, including alternatives to spinal fusion. Los Angeles residents with severe or persistent pain should see their doctor as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment
Pain originating just below the shoulder blade may be due to tight muscles. Should this be the case, you may benefit from a deep tissue or therapeutic massage. This type of therapy has the added benefit of promoting overall relaxation, which may also ease your pain. A related option is to use a cylinder-shaped device called a foam roller. To use a foam roller for a shoulder massage, take the following steps:
• Lie on the floor with the foam roller under your body
• Gently roll the foam roller under the affected area around your upper back/shoulder
• Apply gentle pressure, but only for a minute or less
• Pause after a few rolls to see how your shoulder/upper back feels
• Place your hands on your chest to extend the massage to internal upper back muscles
If these treatments aren’t easing the shoulder blade pain around your spine, visit your Los Angeles spine surgeon to get a proper diagnosis. Provided structural sources of your symptoms that might require surgery are ruled out, you may also benefit from chiropractic manipulations, therapeutic stretches performed under the direction of a physical therapist, or a personalized exercise routine that targets your core, neck, and upper back muscles.
The methods listed above can alleviate many cases of shoulder blade pain, but if you’re experiencing severe or long-lasting pain under your shoulder blade, see a spine specialist right away for diagnosis and treatment. The spinal health experts at The Spine Institute have years of experience treating all kinds of back and neck pain. Call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.