What Causes Pain Between the Shoulder Blades?

Pain between the shoulder blades or what experts would refer to as the interscapular pain could be due to different causes such as a muscle strain, heart attack, or even lung cancer.

Pain Between the Shoulder Blades

Pain between the shoulder blades or what experts would refer to as the interscapular pain could be due to different causes such as a muscle strain, heart attack, or even lung cancer.

Having discomfort between the shoulder blades? Well, do not panic just yet because there could be a lot of possible reasons why.

Pain between the shoulder blades also known as interscapular pain could only be due to a minor injury. For instance, you’ve worked pretty hard at the gym that you didn’t notice you’ve been stressing out your muscles too well. As a result? You can get a muscle strain which could be the culprit behind the pain you’re feeling.

However, this pain could also be a sign of a more serious injury. As we all know, pain is a way of our body is telling us that something is wrong.


Possible Causes of Pain Between the Shoulder Blades

According to research, pain between the shoulder blades could be due to any of the other reasons:


Incidents such as trauma accompanied by rotator cuff tears could be a reason why you are experiencing pain between the shoulder blades. This could also include acromioclavicular joint separation – a shoulder separation wherein the pain resides in between the shoulder blades.


Having arthritis most especially in the neck and in the ribs could also contribute to interscapular pain. Aside from pain between the shoulder blades, arthritis could also cause pain in any part of the body.

Heart Attack

Some experts claim that pain in the shoulder blades is a sign of heart attack. According to research, women are most likely to experience pain in the shoulder blades if they are having heart issues. This is why it is important to know and understand the difference between the symptoms of heart attack between men and women.

Nerve entrapment

Myofascial pain syndrome or muscle trauma could also contribute to pain in the shoulder blades.


Some people who are suffering from a curvature spine are aware that they may have scoliosis. However, not everyone is open to having themselves checked. Due to this, many are not aware that scoliosis also triggers that pain between the shoulder blades.

Gallbladder Disease

There are times wherein after consuming a heavy meal, you could feel pain in the upper right of the abdomen which is also accompanied by nausea. This could be symptoms of a gallbladder disease which is also another possible cause behind the pain you’re feeling in the shoulder blades.

Acid Reflux

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease usually comes with pain located in between the shoulder blades. Apart from that, GERD may also include chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and hoarseness.

Pulmonary Embolism

This condition usually takes place when clots travel from the legs all the way to the lungs. The pain that comes from the shoulder blades is often associated with other symptoms such as shortness of breath and mild discomfort.


Different kinds of cancer may be the reason behind shoulder blades pain. But this type of pain is more evident in lung cancer or Pancoast tumors rather. This is because the nerves located at the top of the lungs are being pushed which results in pain or discomfort.

Thoracic aortic dissection

Pain in the shoulder blades is usually present if there is a tear in the walls of the blood vessels which are responsible for the blood flow in the aorta.

Epidural Anesthesia

Intense interscapular pain is usually experienced by women who had epidural for a C-section during labor. But the pain also subsides or goes away once the drip is slowed down.


The pain caused by shingles may appear in any area of the body depending on which nerves roots are affected by the virus. However, experts suggest that the pain from shingles could mainly affect the shoulder blades.

Pain Between the Shoulder Blades 2

How Is Interscapular Pain Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose an interscapular pain, your doctor will have to trace your family history first for possible causes of diseases. It is also expected that a physical examination will be conducted after. However, since pain between the shoulder blades could be due to various reasons, a physical examination alone and an interview won’t be enough.

To confirm the diagnosis, it is possible that your doctor would recommend the following tests:

  1. Heart Tests – Your doctor would recommend undergoing a heart test if he/she is suspecting that your pain could be due to a heart condition. Most especially for women’s cases who are more vulnerable to shoulder blades pain due to heart issues, heart tests are usually advised.
  1. Abdominal Exams – This type of test is usually done to check your gallbladder, your liver, and even your pancreas. To make this possible, a medication will be given to you so the doctor won’t have a hard time inserting a tube into your throat to your stomach and have your system checked visually.
  1. Blood Tests – If your doctor suspects infection or issues on your liver, then he/she would then recommend you have your blood checked. Blood tests are usually done to see the condition of one’s liver.
  1. Radiological Tests – Tests such as MRI, CT scan, chest PET scan, and chest X-ray may also be conducted to rule out factors of possible cancer if your doctor suspects any.


What Are the Treatments?

Since the root cause of the problem may still be unknown, the treatment will also depend on the cause of the pain. However, if the pain is just muscle strain, then giving the shoulders some time to rest, icing it, and supporting it with compression sleeves might help a lot.


How Would You Know If It’s Time to Call a Doctor?

A normal pain might only last for a few days. However, if the pain stays and would give you much discomfort that would extend for weeks already, then it is best that you see a doctor right away. Most especially if there are other symptoms that are rising such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or any other symptom that you find unusual.


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