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What are the Different Causes of Scapula Pain?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Scapular pain, the discomfort associated with the shoulder blade, affects a significant portion of the population. According to a study undertaken by CHA University, shoulder pain, which often includes the scapula, has a prevalence rate of up to 67% among office workers. This triangular-shaped bone plays a crucial role in connecting the arm to the torso, and its well-being is essential for daily function. While strenuous physical activity is a leading contributor to scapular pain, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons notes that conditions like arthritis are also common culprits. Moreover, incorrect sleeping positions can exacerbate the issue, as highlighted by the Cleveland Clinic . If you're experiencing persistent discomfort in this area, it's vital to consult a healthcare provider to explore the causes of scapular pain and receive tailored treatment.

Occasional scapula pain is to be expected due to the amount of muscle usage in this area of the body. However, if the pain becomes persistent or severe, a trip to the doctor is advisable. Sometimes, changing sleeping positions can help to alleviate the pain. Doctors typically suggest sleeping on the back as much as possible. If this is too difficult, using a high-quality pillow and avoiding sleeping in one position for too long at a time can be quite beneficial.

Arthritis is not a common cause of shoulder blade pain, but it has been reported. In arthritic conditions, especially in osteoarthritis, the surrounding joints become damaged. This can lead to a significant amount of pain and inflammation. Doctors will often prescribe medication to help relieve these symptoms, with cortisone injections being a popular treatment option.

If the scapula pain does not restrict itself to the shoulder area but instead travels down the arm, a compressed, or pinched, nerve may be suspected. A pinched nerve in the neck region of the spine is a common cause of shoulder blade pain. Various treatment options are available for this type of injury, including medications, massage therapy, and in some situations, surgical intervention.

One of the most common sources of scapula pain is a rotator cuff injury. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that work together to support and stabilize the joint found in the shoulder. When one or more of these muscles become damages, the pain frequently manifests itself as scapula pain. This type of injury is most common among athletes who use their shoulder muscles repetitively. If left untreated, this type of injury can lead to permanent damage.

Treatment for a rotator cuff injury is a bit different from treatment options involving other types of scapula pain. In some cases, this type of injury can be treated at home with ice therapy, rest, and medications. However, surgery is frequently necessary to repair muscle damage so that healing will occur, hopefully without any permanent loss of function.

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Discussion Comments

By seag47 — On Aug 09, 2012

I had some serious shoulder blade pain after rowing in a kayak for hours. My husband and I decided to take one out on the lake, and when we were all the way out in the middle, he got a bad muscle cramp in his arm.

I had to row us back to shore, and since we were miles from where we had left all our stuff, this took hours. Even though I took breaks now and then, I knew that I would be stiff and sore the next day.

When we finally arrived, my arms and shoulder muscles were so weak that I was shaking and could barely lift my beach bag. I had to take pain relievers over the next couple of days to ease the pain.

By OeKc05 — On Aug 08, 2012

@Oceana – Ouch! I would imagine that having a dislocated shoulder would cause an immense amount of pain. The scapula would just be hanging there with no support!

The most shoulder pain I have ever had was far less intense than this. I sometimes sleep for way too long on one side, and when I wake up, my scapula is very sore.

I turn over when I realize this, but it is often too late. Sometimes, I have to go throughout the day feeling the pain, because I slept in such a way that I applied pressure to my scapula all night long.

By Oceana — On Aug 07, 2012

My dad injured his rotator cuff and immediately felt extreme left shoulder blade pain. He had fallen and landed on his elbow, and he popped his arm out of socket, so he felt pain all over the shoulder and arm.

He had to be put under anesthesia so that the doctor and nurses could pop it back into place. Then, he had to have surgery to repair the damage.

He was on pain pills for weeks, and he had to do physical therapy for three months. It was quite the injury, and it was probably the most pain he had ever experienced.

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