Shoulder Blade Pain, Treatment, and Management

When it comes down to it, shoulder blade pain is fairly similar to every other kind of pain in the most important way; it hurts. That means that it can prevent you from enjoying the day to day pleasures of life and from doing the things you love. Shoulder blade pain can be caused by a number of different things, and it is often treatable, so a doctor visit is often needed for pain treatment and management.


In the medical community, the shoulder blade is referred as the scapula. The bone is triangular shaped and there is one located on the right and left sides of the body. Through an intricate network of ligaments, muscles, and nerves, the bones are connected to a variety of points in the body. Not all kinds of shoulder blade pain require a visit to the doctor, but some may even necessitate a trip to the emergency room.


As a general rule, shoulder blade pain is not an issue with the scapula, meaning there is nothing wrong with the bone itself. In rare cases, there is a bone tumor, infection, or fracture, but the vast majority of the time, the pain stems somewhere else. The most common cause of shoulder blade pain is injury to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding the area. Other causes can be pinched nerves in the spine, degenerative disc disease, or conditions involving the spinal cord, lungs, heart, or other organs. Pain that is felt not at the site of injury is called referred pain.


The most obvious symptom of shoulder blade pain is, quite obviously, pain. However, the description and details of the pain can vary from person to person, and can help medical professionals determine the likely cause of the injury. Pain can be dull, cramping, throbbing, sharp, burning, or a variety of other adjectives. The area can be swollen, weak, oddly colored, or numb. If the arm and hand on the injured side feel cool to the touch, that could be a symptom as well. Finally, if the shoulder blade looks abnormal or deformed, it should be checked out by a doctor.

Medical Treatment

Not all cases of shoulder blade pain need to be seen by a medical professional, since things like strains and bruises typically heal themselves. When pain persists for a long time and/or gets worse over time, it is time to be seen by a doctor. Depending on the kind of pain, people may see a general practitioner, an orthopedist, a chiropractor, or even an acupuncturist. If there is any weakness, coolness, numbness, deformity, or color change, it is best to head to the closest emergency room. Finally, if there is any indication that the pain may stem from a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. The injury may not be in the shoulder blade itself, and the pain often stems from the neck or back. At times, the pain will go away on its own as the sprain or bruise heals, but many instances of pain need to be checked out by a medical professional.