Pain between shoulders blades

Pain Between Your Shoulder Blades?

One of the most debilitating/ painful and downright annoying muscular injuries we see presenting to us in our clinic is pain around the shoulder blades (mostly between the shoulder blades). Shoulder blades are also known as scapulae. People always describe it as an irritating and constant gnawing pain, they struggle to sleep at night with it and can be sore when driving or sitting at a desk for example. Invariably the pain is simply caused a muscle gone into spasm. A spasm means the muscle cannot lengthen or cannot shorten. A muscle should act like a spring, when it goes into spasm it can’t and it becomes “stuck”. This leads to pain.

There are several reasons why this might happen. As I have written before in this newspaper the shoulder joint is a very complicated joint, it is the only joint that can rotate through full 360 degrees of motion, which in turn means there are many many muscles to contend with. In our experience, one muscle above all else needs to be working efficiently for the rest on the muscles around the shoulder blade to be happy and not to go into spasm. That muscle is called the serratus anterior.

The serratus anterior is a very large muscle that runs from the back of the shoulder blade all the way around to the side of the ribcage and its job is to keep the shoulder blade sliding effectively on the ribcage. If this does not happen and the muscle is weak we sometimes see scapular winging. We often see this presented as shoulder blade winging where one or both shoulder blades stick out from the rib cage and don’t move in sync as we lift our arms up and down repeatedly (see photo below). We also see the shoulder loses its ability to internally and externally rotate. When all this happens you can be sure certain muscle cannot do what they are supposed to do and they either stop working altogether or they are working too hard, either way, the muscle will go into spasm and cause pain. When people experience pain between their shoulder blades it is usually their rhomboids or levator scapulae that are gone into spasm.

It is worth noting this can happen without the shoulder blade winging, but people who get this type of pain regularly tend to have some sort of scapular dyskinesis or dysfunction. It can be easily diagnosed by a trained professional and knowing the specific exercises required to strengthen specific muscles will get you right!

Try these 2 below first and see how you get on  

Wall Slides


1. Place a band between your hands, and rest forearms on wall

2. Push your forearms up along the wall

3. Repeat 10 times

Serratus Punch


1. Place band behind shoulder

2. Grip band with fist and push out L hand first the right

3. Think of a punching motion when doing this

Tommy ConwayComment