Shoulder blade pain is a common cause of chronic pain that affects between seven and 67% people in the U.S. during their life. It is difficult to determine exactly how many people suffer from pain between their shoulder blades, because many choose not to seek treatment or think it will simply go away on its own. If you’re suffering from moderate to severe shoulder pain, though, know that shoulder blade pain relief is possible. Here are 15 shoulder blade pain causes and seven treatment options that can help.

Where do people typically feel shoulder pain?

The shoulder is a complex ball-and-socket joint that connects the clavicle (collarbone), upper arm bones (humerus), and scapula (shoulder blade). Muscles and tendons that surround the joint work to stabilize it.

Major muscle groups in this area of the back include:

  • Trapezius and rhomboids: V-shaped cape of muscle that originates across the tops of the shoulders and attaches to the thoracic spine
  • Teres major and teres minor: Bands of muscle that starts underneath the armpit and tucks under the rhomboids
  • Latissimus dorsi: Wide bands of muscle that support the mid-back, tucking underneath the teres minor and rhomboids below the shoulder blade

While not a weight-bearing joint like the knee, we ask a lot of our shoulders without thinking about it. We take for granted that we will be able to lift our kids, swing a bat, and haul groceries in from the car, but shoulder blade pain can interfere with many daily activities.

Shoulder blade pain can be felt anywhere along the tops of the shoulders and the back plane of the body. This includes:

  • Pain below the shoulder blade
  • Back pain between the shoulder blades
  • Shoulder blade muscle pain in the muscles that surround the shoulder blade

What's Causing My Shoulder Blade Pain? 15 Causes |

What causes shoulder blade pain?

Shoulder blade pain is caused by anything from accident and injury to more complicated (and surprising!) health issues. These may include:

  1. Stress
  2. Whiplash
  3. Tendon sheath inflammation
  4. Rotator cuff injuries and tears
  5. Adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder syndrome
  6. Arthritis
  7. Spinal stenosis
  8. Osteoarthritis
  9. Fractures
  10. Dislocation
  11. Fibromyalgia
  12. Lupus
  13. Neck pain
  14. Mouse shoulder
  15. Heart attack

While muscular-based pain is common, other conditions and injuries can also lead to shoulder blade pain. For example, the flat bones of the shoulder blade may not feel pain in the dead center of each scapula, but as part of the spine and shoulder joint, bone and spinal issues can wreak havoc and cause shoulder blade pain.

Stress related causes

The most common stress-related cause of shoulder blade pain is due to muscle tension. Stress causes muscles to contract. This contraction can eventually lead to shoulder blade pain that ranges from mild to moderate.

As humans, we tend to hold a lot of our stress in our neck and shoulders. This is especially true for those who work at a computer all day.


Most people think of whiplash as an injury that affects the neck only, but the entire back chain of the body comes into play when this occurs.

As in a car accident, the impact of the car stops the car while the body continues to travel forward. When the body reaches the end of its travel (assisted hopefully by a seatbel