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  • JH Backcountry Health

Pain Between Your Shoulder Blades?

Why do we get pain between our shoulder blades? Pain in this area has so much to do with our constant posture and movement patterns. When we spend our day slouched in front of the computer or on the sofa, we continually overstress our back muscles, keeping them in constant tension as we sit in forward flexion with our shoulders rounded forward.


Highlights:

  • How shortened pectoral muscles and forward rounding of the shoulders affect the area between the shoulder blades.

  • The Snow Angel Stretch to allow the shoulder blades to sit back in their best functional position.

  • What constant forward flexion or slouching does to our backs.

  • Using thoracic foam rolling to maintain thoracic mobility and work on extension to decrease pain.

  • When to see a chiropractor or other health care specialist for pain between your shoulders.

How shortened pectoral muscles & forward rounding of the shoulders lead to pain between the shoulder blades:

What exactly happens when we have tight shortened pectoral muscles? Well, pec major pulls our humerus anterior. Pec minor, which attaches to the acromion process on the front of our scapula, tips the shoulder blade down and anterior. Basically this pulls our shoulder blades laterally and superior, putting constant tension across the rhomboids, lower traps and lats. These muscles become overstretched and inhibited. What does that mean? It means they don’t activate well, making it hard them to do their job, to to pull your shoulder blades down and back. It means you end up relying on your upper traps and pecs for shoulder movement. It puts your shoulders in a less than ideal position where shoulders can get injured and tension across your back is a daily struggle. So what can you do?


The Snow Angel Stretch, an all-time favorite to open up pec major, pec minor and the fascia across the front of the chest to relieve pain between the shoulder blades:

Snow Angel Stretch Instructions

  • Lay on the foam roller lengthways with your butt, spine, and head all on the foam roller.

  • Keeping the backs of your hands on the ground, slowly raise your hands over your head as if you are making a snow angel.

  • Pause anytime tightness is felt, take several deep breaths, and continue.

  • This exercise is a marathon, not a sprint.

Why is thoracic mobility so important and how it helps prevent pain in your back:

Our paraspinal muscles are also known as erector spinae – they are meant to hold our spine upright, not hunched over. Being continually bent forward slouching puts a load on them they were not meant to bear and overtime creates pain. So you’ve spent most of your life so far with less than ideal posture, it looks like now is the time to start working on it.


A quick tutorial on how to foam roll your thoracic spine to maintain thoracic mobility and provide relief for pain in our upper and mid backs:

Thoracic Foam Rolling Instructions

  • Sit in front of the foam roller with it perpendicular to your body. Lean back until the base of your lower ribs are resting on the roller. You are going to roll from here up to the top of your shoulders – the thoracic spine.

  • Hands behind head and elbows together to shift scapula out of the way.

  • Lift your pelvis and use your legs to roll from the lower rib cage to just below the base of the neck. Add flexion (curling forward) and extension as you go to mobilize the spine.

*If you need a foam roller right now, we have them for sale in our office. Give us a call at (307) 699-3447 to schedule a time to pick it up.


When to see a chiropractor or other health care specialist for pain between your shoulders:


The above exercises work really well for low-grade nagging pain. If you’re pain is on the sharper side, and started with a sneeze, and is worse with a deep breathe – as long as you don’t have any underlying bone weakening conditions -try these exercises and they often alleviate the issue. If they don’t, this is a great time to see a chiropractor because we work on this all the time. When there is dysfunction in the the joint where the rib attaches to the spine (costothoracic joint) it typically is sharp and worse with a deep breathe when the ribs move as the lungs inflate. Another time where I recommend seeing a chiropractor is after a traumatic injury like whiplash, scorpioning while skiing, or flipping off your mountain bike and landing on your back. However, if you think you may have broken a bone, I recommend getting x-rays right away. Some chiropractors have x-rays in their office, we do not at this point. If you are not sure if you broke a bone or are a candidate for chiropractic care, come in and we will examine the area and make appropriate plans for care or referrals. We err on the side of caution for traumatic incidents and may sometimes need to see an x-ray before we think it is prudent to adjust you.

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