Pain in the upper back and shoulder blades can be excruciating. It may be a referred or local pain.
Anatomy of the shoulder
Shoulders form an important part of the upper back. Their anatomy makes them highly vulnerable to pain due to sprain, strains, tears and inflammation. The muscles and ligaments in the shoulder joints can themselves be the cause of back pain.
A rotator cuff is made up of four main muscles. It binds the shoulders joints together and is very sensitive to tension and stress.
The movement of the shoulder blades is also controlled by small sacks of fluid called bursae. The bursae can become swollen, infected and inflamed leading to acute pain at the point of shoulder.
Neck and arm
Arthritis and disc herniation in the neck can lead to pinched nerves. The resultant pain is referred to the shoulder blades.
The trigger points in the front and side muscles of the neck often cause annoying pain in the shoulder blades in the upper back. It is known only to very few people that some times the upper back pain is caused by these trigger points. Trigger points located under the arm can also cause pain at the lower tip of the shoulder and the middle back.
The role of trapezius muscles
The movements of the shoulders are also controlled by the two triangle shaped trapezius muscles which together form a trapezoid. The trapezius muscle lies at the back of the neck and covers the shoulders. It makes the two shoulders blades move towards the midline in the back. It also rotates them and makes them move up and down.
The muscle is very sensitive to anxieties, frustrations, tension, stress and poor posture. Sitting in the same position over long hours in the office or driving the car shortens and tightens the fibers in the trapezius muscle. It develops spasms that send shooting pains to the shoulders.
If there is a pain under the shoulder blade, it may be a warning that it is being triggered by some other organ of the body. For example, it may be referred by some problem in the stomach or the heart. Heart attacks often cause pain in the shoulders.
Initial back and shoulder blade pain caused by spasms or stains can be cured by simple exercises that rotate the neck and shoulders or move them up and down. It may also go away by applying balm or massage upon the affected areas including the trapezius or taking over-the-counter medicines. You should consult your physician, if the pain refuses to go away by such home treatment.