Also known as shoulder blade, scapula is located in the upper portion of the back. There are two scapulas, each on either side of the shoulder. The triangular bone at the back called scapula, connects with the bone of the upper arm (humerus) and collar bone (clavicle) to form shoulder girdle.
Pain in the scapular region can considerably restrict the movement of the shoulder joint. It is often the result of spasm of the muscles of the shoulder blade or an injury to the rotator cuff; a small group of muscle in the shoulder joint that allows the free movement of the shoulder. Scapular pain can cause sharp shooting pain that may radiate from the back to the shoulder, while lifting any heavy object.
Common Causes Of Scapular Pain
Pain in scapula may sometime occur as a result of overexertion. However, a persisting pain in the scapula needs to be investigated. Here are some of the causes of scapular pain.
- Sleeping in improper posture: it is one of the commonest causes for scapular pain. Sleeping in awkward position for long period can put strain on the shoulder blades, especially if the person sleeps without pillow.
- Snapping scapula syndrome: it is the problem related to the scapula bone, the muscles and soft tissue attached to the scapula. Repetitive movements can cause inflammation of the tissues and muscles connected to the scapula. For example playing certain games such as tennis, badminton or golf can cause strain to the muscles of the shoulders. Grating and snapping can be heard when the scapula moves along the chest wall. The pain is radiated to the scapula.
- Fracture of scapula, which is very rare, can cause severe and unbearable scapular pain with the movement of arm.
- Osteoarthritis: it is a problem of aging process. Osteoarthritis causes inflammation of joints. Cartilage acts as a cover which prevents the friction of bones in a joint. Regular wear and tear leads to destruction of cartilage giving rise to pain in the joint. Though rare, osteoarthritis of shoulder joint can give rise to scapular pain.
- A pinched nerve due to structural deformity of the scapula or a pinched nerve in the cervical spine can give rise scapular pain.
Exercises For Shoulder Blade Pain
The movement of shoulder joint gets markedly affected when there is scapular pain. With reduced flexibility, the strength of the shoulder joint also decreases. Exercise can strengthen and improve the flexibility of the scapular area.
Stretching the shoulder is one such exercise; it relieves the spasm of the muscles that are attached to the scapula. For this you have to bring the right arm in front of the chest. Now hold the right hand with folded elbow of left hand. When there is inward pressure applied to the right hand the right side of the scapula becomes stretched. Exercise that can stretch the neck area can also help to diminish scapular pain.
Scapular Muscle Pain Treatment
Besides exercises to relieve shoulder blade pain, sitting or sleeping in correct posture is vital for preventing scapular pain. Massage to the scapular area with essential oil will relieve strain and spasm of muscles attached to the scapula. Many people have found relief from alternative therapies such as acupressure and acupuncture.
It is important to take rest and avoid physical activities that have triggered pain in the scapula. If there is a pinched nerve, anti inflammatory medicine and muscle relaxant medication helps to relieve the symptoms. A physiotherapy session and neck exercise for cervical spondylosis also helps to reduce shoulder blade pain