If you’re suffering from pain in your shoulder blades, there are effective treatment methods you can try at home.
Known as the scapulae, the shoulder blades are the triangular bones connected to your collarbone. Attached to each shoulder blade are three muscle groups: the rhomboids and the middle and lower trapezius muscles. These muscles enable your shoulders to rotate freely during workouts or simple everyday tasks.
However, exposing this area to stress can lead to cramps, sprains, or strains. For example, shoulder blade pain can result from a muscular injury, strain after weightlifting, poor posture, or whiplash following a car accident. Conditions like a torn rotator cuff, arthritis, or disc herniation may also be the cause of discomfort.
Whatever the source of your shoulder blade pain, there are simple steps you can take to find relief.
1. THE RICE METHOD
RICE is an acronym that represents four important treatment steps:
- Rest: Refrain from strenuous upper back activity for at least two days.
- Ice: Place an icepack on the painful area for 20 minutes, four to eight times a day.
- Compress: A compression garment can help reduce swelling.
- Elevate: Keep the shoulder blades elevated above heart level by propping them up with a pillow.
Once you pinpoint the “trigger point” of your shoulder blade pain, you can try daily massage to alleviate discomfort. Roll a tennis ball around your shoulder area while lying down, stopping at the place, or places, where the pain is most intense. Lower your body to put pressure on that spot, and hold in position for 30 seconds.
Stretching the muscles around your shoulder blades can ease tension that causes discomfort. A simple exercise to try is called the shoulder blade stretch: start by placing your right elbow on top of your left elbow. Then, curve your left hand around to your right arm, applying gentle pressure. This position will stretch your upper back and improve flexibility. Hold for about 30 seconds before switching to the other arm.
4. ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEDICATION
Over-the-counter medications such as Advil and Motrin can often provide relief from shoulder blade discomfort. Depending on the source of your pain, your doctor may also prescribe steroid injections or muscle relaxers.
Slouching while standing or sitting at your desk stresses the muscles in your upper back, often leading to pain between the shoulder blades. While standing or sitting, be sure to keep your back straight and avoid hunching over. You may also want to try a door frame stretch to improve your posture. For this exercise, place your hands on either side of a door frame with your arms angled at 90 degrees. As you step forward with one foot, you’ll naturally stretch your chest muscles. Hold this position for 30 seconds with your head up. Avoid arching your lower back.
If your shoulder blade pain persists, consult an orthopedic specialist for an accurate diagnosis. The doctors and physical therapists at New York Bone & Joint Specialists are experts in the latest treatments for shoulder pain and are dedicated to helping patients return to top form. Contact us today for a consultation.