Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,
The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get Relief,
How People Describe This Pain Pattern
People complain of aching along the inside of the shoulder blade while slouching. Also, it is annoyingly tender along the edge of the shoulder blade when pressed. The hurt the upper back usually begins when they are slumped forward at a desk for a while. This position lets the shoulder blades spread and the chest close.
The onset of this problem is slow, usually over a long period. It may have suddenly gotten worse after an extended period of reaching up and forward. This muscle usually hangs freely but develops this problem when chronically overstretched.
Some people have a chronic problem with this pattern. When you look at the back of these people, they tend to have very straight or hunched upper backs. They have shoulder blades that are either close together and wing out or their shoulder blades are spread far apart and lay close to the ribs. There is a real imbalance between the chest and back muscle so that one has overpowered the other.
This pattern typically bothers them when they are in this position for long periods. When they stand an move, this goes away quickly.
How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern
The classic pain occurs when you slump forward for long periods. For me, this happens when I slump over my desk. I’m a little tired. Usually, I’m sitting a little too far away from the keyboard, and my shoulders pull forward. Sometimes, I’m just not maintaining the curve in my low back because the seat is too low. Or, I’m leaning in to look at the fine print. It is worse when I’m twisted to one side, like the picture. And, it radiates from that green point on my shoulder blade.
It also happens when you lean back and pull your head forward. As the edge of your shoulder blade presses into the hard surface of the chair, this will start to ache. This tends to be sharper and more painful at the point of contact. Those tender trigger points along the inside edge of the shoulder blade will activate and the pattern flares up.
Pain between the shoulder blades while slouching is a common problem in industrialized cultures. Certainly, there is a transition to sedentary work that is dominated by seated tasks. The rhomboid muscles, which produce this pattern, are over-stretched as the shoulders are habitually pulled forward.
Overstretching also might occur when the shoulder extends too far or too much. This happens while painting overhead with a short brush so that the shoulder blade stretches up and forward. The same extension may happen when spending a long time to stock a high shelf.
The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain
Other patterns that may better match your pain pattern…
Pain between the shoulder blades is usually some other trigger point that refers to the rhomboid muscles.
Rhomboids get over-treated because the pain is there. It is usually referred from another muscle. Take a serious look at these other posts for the right pattern and associated self-care to get lasting relief.
Getting Relief on Your Own
This post has strategies for getting relief on your own. Explore how to change your activities, stretch and other strategies that relieve the pain associated with this trigger point.
Treatment Notes for Massage and Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise.
This post has techniques, tips, treatment routines, and anatomy illustrations to improve the bodyworker’s approach.
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Weekly Featured Post
This patient had recovered from a frozen shoulder but developed shoulder pain at the end of his golf swing. More traditional neuromuscular techniques weren’t working. Chiropractic wasn’t working. Integrative Craniosacral was the right solution for lasting relief.
Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.
*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.