What Causes Shoulder Blade Pain and What are the Treatment Options

Shoulder pain affects millions of people. Most people will experience shoulder pain at some point. If you’re experiencing pain around your shoulder blades, you might have difficulty moving or lifting items. Shoulder blade pain occurs when the muscles around or underneath the shoulder blade become inflamed and painful. You might also feel shoulder blade pain in the muscles between your spine and the inner edge of your shoulder blade. In other cases, your upper back could be tender, sore, and achy. You can likely find relief through lifestyle modification and a self-treatment program of stretching, exercise, and self-massage. 


Poor posture can lead to weak, over-extended shoulder muscles, leading to shoulder blade pain. Often when people are working, whether a more active job or a desk job, they lift or hold their arms up and forward. This can lead to the muscles in the front of your body, like your chest muscles and the front muscles of your arms, becoming tight from overworking. This tightness pulls and lengthens your upper back muscles, causing pain. This is why exercise and physical therapy are often prescribed for shoulder pain. When the back muscles are strengthened, they are less likely to hurt. It’s also possible for tension in other parts of the body, such as the hips, to contribute to upper back pain. 

Improper Lifting

If you are lifting heavy items for work or during your last move, it’s possible to pull or injure your upper back muscles. This can happen by lifting something that’s too heavy for you or using incorrect form while lifting. Correct form involves lifting with your legs, hips, and core, not your back. You also want to use your upper back muscles and the muscles on the front of your body to lift heavy items. If you practice yoga, you’re likely familiar with your teacher saying, “Pull your shoulder blades onto your back!”. You can do this by imagining that you’re pulling your shoulder blades together and down onto your back. Using this motion while lifting can protect your upper back muscles. 

Herniated Disc or Other Injury

A herniated disc can also cause shoulder blade pain. A herniated disc happens when the connective tissue that pads your spine bones (vertebra) becomes compromised by poor posture, improper lifting, or injury. The outer layer of the cushioning disc ruptures, and part of the inner disc leaks out. The jelly-like inner layer can inflame nerves in your back that it comes in contact with. Other structural parts of your back, like your tendons or ligaments, can also become inflamed from injury or overuse.


Shoulder blade pain can also be caused by simple overuse of your upper back muscles. Many people have weak upper back muscles due to common postural positions that we hold in our society, such as driving and working on a computer. But, even the fittest person can overuse their upper back muscles and experience shoulder pain. If your shoulders are aching after a lot of physical activity, such as a long drive, painting your home, or helping a friend move, you likely overworked these muscles. Topical analgesics are your friend here, and so is a hot soak in an Epsom salt bath. 

Treatment Options

In addition to addressing the cause of your shoulder blade pain, such as learning better posture and the use of ergonomic tools, here are some home remedies and self-treatment options that might help relieve your shoulder blade pain.


RICE is an acronym for rest, ice, compression, and elevate. Rest your shoulder as much as possible to let your body heal. Use an ice pack on the painful area (covered with a cloth) for 15-20 minutes every 3-4 hours. If you can, wrap your shoulder with a compression wrap. Elevate your shoulder when possible. 

OTC Pain Medicine

Over-the-counter medications like aspirin or ibuprofen can help manage your pain symptoms, but please don’t use them to do activities that might aggravate your shoulder.

Massage and Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a common treatment for shoulder pain. It can help correct structural imbalances that cause muscle pain. It will also likely make having better posture easier as weaker muscles are strengthened. 

Massage therapy may also be helpful for shoulder pain. Massage can help relax tight muscles that cause shoulder blade pain. Look for a massage therapist with experience with shoulder pain, if you can, and explain where you have pain and what it’s like. Drink a lot of water before and after your massage. 


YouMari is the most advanced self-treatment program on the market today. YouMari helps you relieve symptoms and address the root cause of your issue by thoroughly assessing you and creating a customized treatment plan. Learn different stretches that will loosen tight muscles, practice exercises to strengthen compromised areas, and bring the work all together with pain-relieving and muscle-relaxing massage. Try YouMari today and put yourself first!