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Sharp Pain Between the Shoulder Blades

Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,

The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get Relief,
and more…

How People Describe This Pain Pattern

People complain of pain along the spine between the shoulder blades. This can vary a great deal in intensity. It can be nagging and achy or sharp in a deep breath. There are a number of patterns between the shoulder blades but this one is right along the spine and described like a bone is out-of-place. People complain more about their movement of the trunk and breathing than pain in their arms and neck.

This illustration shows a focus of pain along the thoracic spine where this often occurs. It may also occur above and below the spot shown, along the spine and ribs. Cervical multifidi produce different referral patterns and are discussed in this post.

When it is more severe and creates a sharp pain on breathing it is often described as a rib head that is out. There is some truth to that. This pain is often associated with a vertebra that is twisted. The rib head is not seated well on the side of the vertebra that has rotated back. It can be felt like a more prominent bump there.

How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern

People complain of this after an awkward position with their arms raised, like painting, installing tile, or sitting in an awkward chair at a conference. Sometimes it happens because of being twisted and then losing balance or sneezing. It can be caused by a twisting fall or motor vehicle accident. It is also reported as a sharp pain after sleeping on a cold or hard surface. I’ve had that myself.

It is often something that they wake with the next day, after a day of doing some unusual activity.

The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain

These tiny muscles adjust the tension and position of vertebrae. They overlap to create a complex set of guy wires to stabilize the spine.

You can read more about them in this post about multifidi and rotatores.

Getting Relief on Your Own

Clinically Proven
Self-Care Recommendations.

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

Better Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise.

This post has techniques, tips, treatment routines, and anatomy illustrations to improve the bodyworker’s approach.

This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began improving the format. We are also adding more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We appreciate your input and feedback. You will see us adding posts and updating older posts as time permits.

Weekly Featured Post

This post shows you how to press out the trigger points and stretch the infraspinatus muscle. It’s a small muscle on the back of the shoulder but creates a number of problems, including:

  • shoulder pain when sleeping
  • loss of grip strength
  • upper neck pain
  • pain along the inside edge of the shoulder blade

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.

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*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make it 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.


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