On her first visit to my chiropractic office a patient, named Karla, told me: “My shoulder blade Is killing me”! She had been having mild, ongoing pain in the area of her right shoulder blade for several months. She did rigorous physical work with her job of housecleaning. Over time her discomfort worsened to the point she had to something and decided to come to my office.
In my 34 years of chiropractic practice I have seen many cases similar to Karla’s and I had a good idea of what was causing her problem and how to help her. This article will discuss what can cause pain in the shoulder blade area. It will also discuss a recent research study which gives more insight into the underlying cause of shoulder blade pain and how chiropractic care can help improve this common condition.
Many people experience discomfort in the shoulder blade region. Let’s give some clarity about this area. Anatomically, there is a large bone resting on the back of our upper ribs on both sides called the scapula. Some people refer to this bone as the “wing bone”. The inside border of this particular bone is referred to as the medial scapular border which simply means it is the inside portion of the shoulder blade.
Progressing further into our description of this area we note that there are muscles that attach to the scapula. One muscle that attaches to the shoulder blade and extends to the spinal column is called the rhomboid muscle. We have a right rhomboid muscle and the left rhomboid muscle. Again, they attach to the inside border of the scapula and insert onto the spinal column. Their main job is to pull our shoulder blades back. If a person is performing a rowing type activity they are using their rhomboid muscles
Interestingly, the area of the mid back we are discussing is intricately associated with the neck area. A recent research study in the Journal of Biomechanics, April 2019 notes that researchers observed that patients having neck pain also had mid back problems. The findings suggest that pain in the neck area can affect the mid back spinal region and can increase the risk for pain in the mid back.
For Karla and many other patients who have pain in the shoulder blades this means that it is important to assess and examine the areas of the neck and the mid back to determine a possible cause of their problem.
What chiropractic practitioners have found for over 125 years is that the spinal area of the mid back is linked and associated with the spinal area of the neck. If bones in the neck are misaligned causing irritation to the spinal joints and pinching the nerves of the neck the muscles of the mid back, especially the rhomboids, will go into spasm to protect the abnormal condition in the spinal area of the neck.
This discomfort can vary by being a tightness, soreness, spasm or burning. It can be constant all the time or it may be intermittent; perhaps occurring if patients do certain types of physical activity.
Whatever the symptomatology, it is important for the healthcare practitioner to examine the whole patient to identify cause of the pain so that a successful treatment outcome can occur.
As a chiropractor, I will check the alignment of the neck and the mid back. If there are misalignments in either region I will then perform chiropractic adjustments which will safely, and gently realign the spinal vertebrae. This will remove irritation to the spinal joints and pinched nerves. In turn, muscles including the rhomboids will relax as they do not have to compensate and try to protect the deleterious condition.
Many people who experience mid back and shoulder blade pain can be helped with a safe, gentle, nonsurgical, drug-free chiropractic care. Doctors of Chiropractic have been helping patients suffering with pain in the shoulder region for over a century.