Shoulder Blade Pain: Associated Conditions and Treatments

shape your waist Shoulder blade pain is commonly a referred pain, or a pain which does not originate from the shoulder itself. Among all the joints of the body, the shoulder is most mobile yet its stability greatly depends on the tissues surrounding it known as the "rotator cuff". The damage to these supporting tissues, their corresponding tendons, and the bursaes (a fluid filled sac) is most commonly the cause if a person experiences shoulder blade pain. However, shoulder blade pain can also be due to other serious problems like several cancers in areas proximal to the shoulder which had metastasized and a lot more.

The most common conditions associated with shoulder blade pain include:

  • Acute Bursitis. The bursa is a sac that contains fluid which helps the muscles to flex and extend smoothly. In cases when the bursa is inflamed of infected, the primary manifestation is shoulder blade pain. This pain is felt worse at night especially when lying on the affected side. If left untreated, bursitis and shoulder blade pain can be chronic.
  • Strain, sprain, and tear on the rotator cuff tissues and the corresponding tendons and ligaments are other common causes.
  • Tear and sprain on the muscles adjacent to the rotator cuff along with its tendons and ligaments
  • Secondary infection of the shoulder joint due to a primary infection somewhere in the body
  • Joint dislocations related to injuries
  • Arthritis, either Rheumatoid or Osteoarthritis affecting the shoulder joints.
  • Fractures or break in the bone is mostly related to pain. Fracture to the scapula or the shoulder blade or any of the bones proximal to the area can cause shoulder blade pain.
  • Myocardial infarction and other heart and blood vessels condition produces shoulder blade pain as referred pain. The pain here is described as radiating pain from the organ of origin which is the heart.
  • Sarcoma or soft tissue cancer affecting the upper end of the humerus
  • Breast cancer in which the point of metastasis is the shoulder
  • Shoulder separation
  • Humerus Juvenile Osteochondritis
  • Parsonage-Aldren-Turner Syndrome
  • Impingement Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia

Diagnosis of the underlying cause of the shoulder blade pain will be based on the physician's physical examination of the patient and the result of several tests conclusive to the actual condition. During the Doctor's evaluation, the patient will be asked to move the affected shoulder all throughout its ROM or Range of Motion. To detect neurological involvement, neurological examination will also be done. Tests may include X-ray for fractures and dislocations, ultrasound, MRIs, and blood tests.

Treatment for shoulder blade pain depends greatly on the cause.

  • Shoulder blade pain associated with acute or chronic bursitis, sprain, tear, and strain is treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, rest, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, and activity modifications.
  • Treatment of the primary and the secondary infections causing the shoulder blade pain is usually done by administering wide spectrum antibiotics.
  • Joint dislocations and fractures are conventionally treated by casting, pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and immobilization.
  • For shoulder blade pain caused by other disease conditions, the management would be treating that medical condition first.