Shoulder Blade (Scapula) Pain

What is the scapula?

The shoulder blade (scapula) is the socket side of the shoulder joint. It is a flat bone which is surrounded by, primarily, the rotator cuff muscle group which attaches between it and the arm (humerus).

What causes shoulder blade (scapula) pain?

Pain localized to the shoulder blade may occur because of problems in the acromioclavicular joint (i.e. between the shoulder blade and collar bone), mid back (thoracic spine) or the neck. Shoulder blade pain along the upper and medial (inside) border of the shoulder blade in the upper back is commonly referred from the lower part of the neck, generally from the C5 or C6 nerve root level.


How does shoulder blade (scapula) pain feel?

Patients will complain of headaches and neck stiffness. Aggravation and reproduction of posterior shoulder blade pain with extension of the head and rotation to the side indicates a neck cause. Sharp stabbing pain between the shoulder blade and spine which is aggravated by neck and arm movement and deep breathing can quite posssibly be due to injury or irritation of the intervertebral joints(between vertebrae) or costovertebral joints(between rib and spine).

Management of shoulder blade (scapula) pain and how to fix it?

The assistance of a sports medicine professional is important in the treatment of shoulder blade pain. Assessment will determine the extent of injury and how long it will take to settle. Specialised treatment techniques will assist in reducing pain and enhance the recovery of the injured structures. This will include an appropriate progression of exercises aimed at increasing range of motion of the spine or shoulder, strength and function. By identifying the reason the injury occured it will be possible to help prevent reinjury.

Imaging studies of the shoulder may be performed, including x-rays, ultrasonography or occasionally, MRI scans.