What Are the Most Common Causes of Upper Back Pain between the Shoulder Blades?

Poor posture may cause shoulder pain.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2014
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Upper back pain between the shoulder blades can be caused by several factors, some of which are quite simple to treat and some more complicated. Poor posture is a very common cause of back pain, as is spinal compression and the more serious herniated disc. The pain may also be a referred pain, a type of pain that originates in one part of the body but spreads and is felt in other places not directly affected by the condition. Issues with the stomach or esophagus can cause referred upper back pain, for example.

A more serious condition that may result in upper back pain between the shoulder blades is biliary colic, which is a condition that usually causes pain in the abdomen. It occurs when bile produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder gets blocked by gallstones and cannot do its job of helping to break down fats. Muscles within the body try to move the stones, which can lead to pain, usually in the right side of the abdomen. Sufferers of gall stones often report referred pain between the shoulder blades, perhaps as a result of the muscle strain occurring within the body.

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Poor posture can put excess pressure and strain on the neck and shoulders, leading to pain in the upper back. Such pain often occurs in people who sit for long periods of time, especially if those people spend a significant amount of time staring at a computer. If the computer screen is in a position that forces the neck to bend unnaturally for long periods of time, or if the computer's keyboard is in such a position that the user must thrust his or her arms forward, upward, or downward to use it, pain may result in the neck and shoulders. Muscles often begin to tire from holding the positions for so long, and when this happens, they tend to tighten. This can cause discomfort in the neck and shoulders, as well as between the shoulder blades.

Spinal compression can also lead to pain in these areas. Such compression occurs throughout the day as gravity pulls down on the body, and usually rest or stretching will be enough to alleviate the pain. Spinal compression can lead to herniated discs in the spine, however, which is a more troublesome condition that can cause nerve pain throughout the body, including between the shoulder blades, depending on the position of the herniated disc.

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Discuss this Article

anon331976
Post 5

I have this very intense pain from my middle back up, across my shoulder blades,all the way across my chest and upper stomach and under both of my upper arms. It is an itching, burning sensation also. I have scratched and rubbed so, that in some places I'm tender and sore. Also, it seems like my back muscles are so tight. It feels like needles and stick pins are sticking in me. It hurts me to touch my on upper body at times.

lighth0se33
Post 4

@DylanB – It's tough when your job is the source of your physical pain. I am rather short, and I had to sit at a desk that was too high for me to rest my arms on comfortably while I worked. This resulted in upper back pain.

My shoulders were raised up at an angle whenever I put my forearms on the desk, and this placed strain on my back muscles between my shoulder blades. I got tired of it, so I started bringing a thick cushion to work to sit on.

This raised me up to a comfortable position. A few coworkers made fun of me for using the cushion, but that didn't really bother me. I knew that I was preventing my own pain by sitting on it.

orangey03
Post 3

@seag47 – It's weird how some upper back pain causes have nothing to do with the back itself. The gallbladder incident is one example, and another is indigestion.

Sometimes, when I have eaten something that doesn't agree with me, I get a burning sensation and sharp pains that seem to radiate through from my stomach to my back. I feel the pain between my shoulder blades, but I know that it is really coming from my stomach.

DylanB
Post 2

I had to spend a lot of time in front of the computer when I first started my desk job. I had started with the company at a time when business was booming, so I had to pull a lot of overtime, and this caused pain in my neck, shoulders, and back.

I was tense, because I wanted to do things well and make a good impression. Being tense put extra strain on my muscles, and I got really stiff and sore as a result.

I got neck and back pain relief by using a hot towel that had been filled with rice and sewn shut. I put it in the microwave until it was hot but still bearable, and I would lay it across my aching muscles and sit with it until it cooled off. If my muscles were still sore, I would reheat it and use it some more.

seag47
Post 1

My friend felt pain in between his shoulder blades during a gallbladder attack. The pain went all the way through his abdomen, so he could not tell if it originated from the front or the back, but it really didn't matter.

He was hurting so badly that he went to the emergency room. He had to have his gallbladder removed, because gangrene had set in, so it was in bad shape.

I think that any pain you can feel between your shoulder blades that seems to go through your body is probably an indicator of something serious. If it feels more intense than simple muscle tension, then it's worth a trip to the doctor.

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