Upper Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades

Do You Get Upper Back Pain Between The Shoulder Blades?

Watch this video to learn what causes upper back pain between the shoulder blades, plus what you can do to relieve it.

What Causes Upper Back Pain Between The Shoulder Blades?

There are 2 main causes of upper back pain between the shoulder blades:

  1. Your shoulder blade(s) are too low
  2. Your upper back is too straight
Neck and Shoulder Pain Relief More 4 Life Physical Therapy St. Louis MO 63011 Gladly Serving Ballwin, Manchester, Chesterfield, Des Peres, Ellisville, and St. Louis County Find A Neck Pain Specialist Near Me.

Shoulder Blades Are Too Low

The shoulder blades are suspended from your neck and upper back by muscles.  Normally your shoulder blades hang between the second and seventh thoracic  vertebrae (T2 to T7).

If one shoulder blade (or both) is hanging too low, it can cause compression of the joints and nerves in the lower part of the neck.  This can cause referred pain into the upper back and shoulder blades.

Additionally, when the shoulder blades hang too low, it pulls on muscles in the upper back (the rhomboids). This can also cause upper back pain between the shoulder blades.

Upper Back Is Too Straight

Many people are taught to sit up straight with "good posture".  This is good to a point.

However, many people take this too far.  If sitting up tall is good, then sitting up taller must be better, right?


For most things in life there is a happy medium, and posture is no exception.  Your spine is supposed to have and S-shaped curve, and the upper back is supposed to be a little rounded.

When you sit up with your upper back too straight ("military posture") it can pinch nerves in the thoracic spine, which causes referred pain around the ribcage.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve in the thoracic spine can include upper back pain between the shoulder blades and/or pain or burning in the front of the chest. (Like a "heartburn" that isn't related to eating)

Note: If the "heartburn" is new, make sure to rule out a heart attack first.

Tips To Relieve Upper Back Pain Between The Shoulder Blades

  1. Get good arm support. Supporting your arms on armrests when sitting helps prevent your shoulder blades from pulling down on your neck and upper back muscles.  If you're standing, put your hands in your pockets, hands on your hips, thumbs in your belt loops, or cross your arms so they support each other.  Basically anything you can do to offload the weight of the arms.
  2. Slouch (a little bit).  Your upper back is supposed to be a little bit rounded.  You don't want to be overly slouched, but sitting up perfectly straight isn't good either.  Trying to sit up too straight is a common cause of upper back pain between the shoulder blades.

For more information on postures to relieve neck, shoulder and upper back pain, read our post about how to relieve neck pain when sitting.

Stretches For Upper Back Pain In Between The Shoulder Blades

Wall Slide Exercise For Upper Back Pain

stretches for upper back pain between shoulder blades wall slide exercise Stand facing the wall with your forearms flat on the wall.  Slide your arms up the wall reaching as high as you can.  Think about lifting your shoulder blades and allowing your upper back to round. This stretch helps take pressure off of the neck and upper back muscles that cause pain in between the shoulder blades.

Sitting Forward Reaching With Rounded Upper Back

stretches for upper back pain between shoulder blades sitting reaching arms forward

Sit with your hands clasped together.  Reach forward and allow your upper back to round while wrapping the shoulder blades around your trunk.  This helps stretch the upper back muscles between the spine and the shoulder blades (the rhomboids).

Common Questions About Stretches For Upper Back Pain Between The Shoulder Blades

Q: How long should I hold the stretch?

A: It doesn't matter.

Q: How many repetitions (reps) should I do?

A: It doesn't matter.  Make your total stretch time 1-2 minutes.

Q: How often should I do these stretches?

A: Regularly, but don't get caught up in the details.  Anywhere from once every few hours (if you work a desk job and have upper back pain) to a few times per week (if you move regularly and are just doing it for prevention / wellness).

Q: Why can't you give more details about stretching?

A: Because it REALLY doesn't matter. Stretches are not the big thing that's going to fix your upper back pain.  They're a helpful addition, but stretches are not going to make or break your success.

Focus more on the tips mentioned above in the video, change positions regularly, get regularly physical activity, and manage your stress.

These are the things that will get your upper back and shoulder blade pain better and keep it better.

Definitely don't stress over the details of your stretches.

At More 4 Life, we like to keep things as simple as possible. Often the simplest solution is the best solution.

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Like this post? Check out our other great posts on neck pain and on shoulder pain

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