Scapular muscle pain (between the shoulder blades) is a symptom that can be caused both by back problems and cervical problems, because many times the symptoms are the same.
At the same time another very frequent cause of pain scapular, is the chronic contracture of scapular muscles, upper and lower rhomboids, and sometimes even the lower trapezius, although with lower symptomatology.
As a bodybuilder (well...easy...let's say fitness athlete) I experience muscle pain between my shoulder blades sometimes.
In my case it is caused by exercise at the gym. The day after aches are common for me, as I always try to improve my previous performance and therefore I force my muscles to do always more.
Classic exercises that give me scapular muscle pain are upright rows, low pulley rower and t-bar.
It's quite an uncomfortable pain especially when I wake up in the morning and the general feeling is stiffness between my shoulder blades. It goes away after two or three days though.
Some Frequent Causes of Scapular Muscle Pain
But sometimes, scapular pain is not due to workout at the gym, and let me guess...this is why you came across my site.
If you're trying to understand where your soreness may come from, here is a list of common causes that might answer your question.
Injury or trauma: structural lesions of shoulder bones or ligaments can cause severe upper back pain.
Aging: degeneration of the cervical spine (neck) due to aging or bone diseases (osteoporosis) can cause pain between shoulder blades.
Arthritis: it is the leading cause of shoulder pain, especially in older people. Arthritis leads to dysfunction of the vertebrae and upper back ribs joints.
Injured rotator cuff: muscles of the rotator cuff control and stabilize shoulder movement. A torn rotator cuff or any injury to the rotator cuff can lead to upper back pain, especially while lifting your arm above your head.
Excessive stress: excessive physical and psychological stress can lead to upper back pain. Depressed people are always complaining of back pain.
Respiratory problems: pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, pleurisy due to respiratory infections, can lead to chronic back pain and shoulder pain. Lung problems can lead to shoulder pain during deep breathing.
Bad posture: simple causes such as poor posture while sleeping, sitting, playing, working or standing can cause shoulder pain.
Extreme cold: excessive exposure to extreme cold can lead to upper back pain.
Wrong diet: vitamin deficiency or consumption of too much fat during meals, can weaken shoulder muscles, resulting in scapular muscle pain. Bad habits such as consumption of processed and junk food, consumption of low nutritious foods, result in deficiency of nutrients, which can cause muscle weakness and upper back pain.
...At the Doctor's Office
The visit follows different steps, cervical spine evaluation, evaluation of potential inflammation, assessment of muscle pain, assessment of pain and disability.
Through these assessments your doctor will choose the proper therapeutic treatment.
How to Treat it?
It depends on the cause, usually the dorsal spine responds well to treatment, especially to the technique of spinal manipulation (ever tried a chiropractor?), because very often the patient suffers from rigid vertebral nature and postural causes.
Besides chiropractic, massage therapy, acupuncture and postural re-education can also achieve the result.
I have gone to the chiropractor in the past and I would recommend it. After a few sessions you feel a great relief from stiffness and pain, but it's only temporary if you don't go fix the cause of your scapular muscle pain.
In my personal experience I can say that lots of stretching can do very much to help you prevent muscle pain.
Stretch very well before exercising, do at least one set to warm up before you start the real sets.
Also stretch after workout to help release the lactic acid in your muscles.
I found it beneficial to stretch even before I go to bed, and my latest habit is to do a few "warm up" sets of back exercises with my new elastic bands.
Have you ever tried to use a backnobber? I was advised by my physiotherapist, I used it there and then I had to buy one for me because it worked great for me.
I use it to loosen the knots in my upper back in the morning when I wake up stiff, highly recommended:
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