What causes scapula pain? Is it a serious situation? Do you need to see a doctor? What should be done to pass? If not, is there any medical treatment? You can find the answers to all these questions and much more below.
Is scapula pain serious?
The scapula is one of the three bones that make up the shoulder joint. It is a large triangular bone that sits in the upper back. It forms the socket of the ball of the humerus (upper arm bone) to make the ball and socket part of the shoulder joint. It also forms a joint with the collarbone at the top of the shoulder. The shoulder also contains muscles, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues. Ligaments connect the scapula to the other shoulder bones. Tendons connect the muscles to the scapula.
Scapular pain is pain in the upper back that is felt in the back of the shoulders. Scapular pain can occur when there are problems with the bone itself or any of the components listed above. Pain felt in the scapula can also include problems with the nerves.
Pain can be felt differently depending on the cause. It may feel dull and achy, sharp, stabbing, or burning. The pain may also worsen or improve with movement. It’s important to see your doctor if you’re experiencing scapula pain or have other problems that persist or worsen over time. If you have had an injury or accident affecting your shoulder, it is recommended that you seek medical attention immediately.
In some cases, you may be experiencing shoulder blade pain due to a condition known as referred pain . This is pain in another area and may radiate to the scapula. Some of the causes of referred scapula pain are serious and even life-threatening, such as heart attack and lung disease.
It is recommended that you seek immediate medical attention if you have shoulder blade pain along with other potentially serious symptoms including:
- Chest pain , pressure, or tightness
- Pain radiating down the arm or to the neck and jaw
- rapid heart rate or palpitations
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sudden anxiety, sweating, or hot flashes
Shoulder pain: Causes
Scapular pain may be related to inflammation and trauma in the right shoulder area or may instead be due to pain from other areas in the chest and abdomen. Therefore, pain experienced in this area can be as simple as a mild muscle strain or as serious as a heart, lung condition or cancer . Some conditions are more likely to cause pain in the scapula on only one side. For example, gallbladder disease can cause right scapula pain , while heart conditions are more likely to cause left scapula pain .
Let’s take a closer look at the categorical causes of scapula pain now.
1. Causes related to the musculoskeletal system
The most common cause of scapula pain is muscle strain. This pain may be accompanied by pain in other muscle groups, such as shoulder pain or back pain , but may also be felt only in your shoulder blade. Even something as simple as sleeping in the wrong position (especially sleeping on one side for a long time) can cause this pain.
Muscle strains often feel like pulling on a muscle, and you’re more likely to experience shoulder blade pain if you’ve started a new exercise program, performed an unfamiliar lift, and slept in a new or different bed. Longer lasting pain may be associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia or myofascial pain syndrome .
Other muscle conditions that can cause scapula include rotator cuff tears and a condition known as snapping scapula syndrome. Snapping scapula syndrome is notable for having snapping symptoms along the inside of the scapula.
2. Bone and joint related causes
Bone problems such as a fracture of the scapula are rare, as the scapula is considered some of the most difficult bones to break in the body. Therefore, it is unlikely that you will have a shoulder blade fracture without remembering the cause. Fractures of the scapula often involve hard falls or high-speed motor vehicle accidents.
Osteoporosis can affect your shoulder blades, shoulders, or neck, causing neck and shoulder pain and shoulder blade pain. Calcification can also cause pain in the shoulder blades in more than one way. The scapula may be directly involved, or you may be experiencing pain from arthritis in other areas of your chest, including your spine, shoulders, or ribs.
Finally, collapsed or displaced discs or pinched nerves can radially cause shoulder blade pain. With disc problems , you may have pain , numbness and tingling in your neck that spreads from your arm to your hands .
3. Heart related causes
Although rare, there are cases where left scapula pain is a symptom of a heart attack. A heart attack should be considered along with any pain in the trunk, especially in women. Conditions such as pericarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart) or aortic dissection may only be experienced as pain in the left shoulder blade. If you are unsure about the cause of your pain and you have any risk factors for heart disease, it is recommended that you see a doctor.
4. Lung related causes
A sizable percentage of patients with lung-related problems experience shoulder pain or shoulder blade pain (or both). Pancoast tumors are a type of lung cancer that grows in the upper parts of the lungs and typically causes pain in the shoulders, shoulder blades, and arms rather than the more typical symptoms of lung cancer. In addition, conditions such as pulmonary embolism or pneumothorax can also cause pain in the shoulder blades.
5. Causes related to infection
Shingles , an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, is a type of infection that can cause shoulder blade pain. The pain is usually in the form of burning or tingling . While shingles usually involves a rash that occurs in the area of the affected nerve, the pain often precedes the rash a few days, thus making diagnosis difficult at first.
6. Abdominal and groin related causes
It may surprise you to hear that abdominal and even groin problems can cause shoulder blade pain, but it is actually quite common. Irritation of the nerves that run at the base of the diaphragm (the muscles that separate the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity) can cause pain as if it originated in your shoulder or scapula. Some conditions that can cause pain in the shoulder blades include gallstones, peptic ulcer disease, acid reflux, and liver disease.
7. Causes related to malignant diseases
In addition to lung cancer, other tumors involving the breast, such as lymphomas, or abdominal cancer, such as cancer of the esophagus, stomach, liver, or pancreas, can also cause shoulder blade pain. Cancers such as breast cancer, lung cancer, esophageal cancer and colon cancer can also metastasize (spread) and cause pain in the shoulder blades.
Shoulder pain: Diagnosis
For diagnosis, his doctor will begin by taking a careful health history and performing a physical examination. Many causes of pain in the shoulder blades can be diagnosed based on your history. But research shows that it is often difficult to diagnose the cause of shoulder blade pain based on a physical exam alone.
To determine the cause of shoulder blade pain, your doctor may ask questions such as:
- Which shoulder blade hurts?
- How long have you been in pain?
- Did the pain come on gradually or suddenly?
- Have you changed your exercise routine lately?
- Do you participate in activities that often cause pain in the shoulder or scapula?
- How would you describe your pain?
- What makes the pain worse?
- When and how does the pain go?
- What other symptoms are you experiencing?
- Do you smoke or have you ever smoked?
In addition, the following may be necessary to determine the cause of shoulder blade pain:
- Laboratory tests: Your doctor may order blood tests
for diagnosis . Liver function tests may also be done to check for inflammation of your liver (usually due to pain in the left shoulder blade). Various tests can also be done to look for inflammatory forms of arthritis and other connective tissue diseases.
- Radiology studies:
Especially in some types of cancer, radiological studies are needed. Radiological studies include imaging tests such as a chest X-ray , MRI , or computed tomography . Keep in mind that X-rays may miss some causes, and about one in four people with lung cancer have a normal chest X-ray.
- Heart tests:
If your doctor is worried that your pain may be caused by your heart, he or she may recommend tests such as an EKG or a stress test . It is worth repeating that especially in women, heart pain can only be seen in the shoulder blades.
- Abdominal exams: Tests such as endoscopy
may be done to evaluate your stomach and small intestine . In endoscopy, the doctor can see the way to the stomach and the stomach, and thus make a diagnosis. An ultrasound may be done to evaluate your gallbladder .
Shoulder pain: Treatment
Treatment for scapula pain will depend on the underlying cause of the pain.
If the pain is related to a muscle tension, then the following may be helpful for shoulder blade pain:
- To relax
- cold compress
- compress the sore spot
- Sitting and working comfortably
For ongoing musculoskeletal scapula pain, warm compresses or physical therapy may help. If there is no reason why you should not take anti-inflammatory medications , treatment with ibuprofen or naproxen in consultation with your doctor can also reduce discomfort. Stretching and/or massage has also been beneficial for some people.
For other causes of pain, treatment will be directed at the underlying cause, such as radiation, medications for bone, or chemotherapy for cancer-related pain.