Ways To Alleviate Pain In Upper Back & Shoulder Blades:
Leons notes :
1-3 techniques below will focus on giving you temporary relief by using self massage techniques and stretching for the actual painful areas.
4-8 will focus on stretching and activating the muscles that will help you to carry yourself in a better posture This is the long term strategy.
Please note, if your pain persists for a long time, you may want to see a professional in-person to address your situation.
How To Confirm A Shoulder Problem
Remember, the most common area for shoulder problems in our diagram is C. There are other locations where should pain will express itself, but for the purpose of this post, we wont discuss them here.
If your pain is
- worse with bringing your biceps to your ears , you probably have a shoulder injury.
- worse with shoulder exercises that dont also stress the neck, you probably have a shoulder injury. i.e. If you have pain with push-ups but not with strict presses overhead, then this is confirmed.
Most Common Causes Of Chronic Neck Pain
The most common causes of chronic neck pain are muscle strain and nerve compression. Depending on the symptoms youre experiencing, it can be difficult to tell which of these is occurring. Most muscle strain comes from activities that place a lot of uneven strain on one side of your neck. Repetitive lifting is a common cause of muscle strain around the neck, especially if the loads are heavy or if youre using one side of your body to tote heavy loads, like carrying a heavy bag over one shoulder. Sleeping in a weird position or having a pillow that doesnt provide adequate support can also cause muscle strain in your neck.
Nerve compression occurs when one of the nerves around the neck gets pinched or pressed as it leaves your upper spine . When the nerves exit the cervical spine, they travel through your shoulders and down into your arms and hands. If a disc in your cervical spine slips out of place or if the tissues in your neck get swollen and inflamed, the nerves in that area can get squeezed. And that means you can have pain and other symptoms in your neck and anywhere along the path of that nerve.
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Upper Back And Neck Stretch
The Muscles Of The Upper Back And How They Work:
Trapezius a diamond shape muscle divided into three sections. They are not designed to be heavy lifters but are often used inappropriately when incorrect lifting technique is used
Rhomboids connect the shoulder blades to the spine
Erector spinae these long, superficial muscles run down the length of your spine like train tracks on either side of the vertebral column. The erector spinae are not designed for heavy lifting or stability and are intended to extend the spine only however they can go into spasm during episodes of back pain
Latissimus dorsi the large wing-shaped muscles of the back that are one of the prime movers in shoulder function. These are the muscles that you use in exercises like pull ups and lat pull downs
Rotator cuff this group of four muscles provide stability around the shoulder joint. The ligaments of the shoulders are quite weak and lax compared to other parts of the body. This means they rely on the muscle strength of the rotator cuff for stability
Deltoids the muscles that provide the cap on the top of the shoulder. They are important in lifting actions as they initiate the movement of the arm coming up
Pectorals these muscles sit across the front of the chest, however, have a large impact on the upper back. If the pecs are tight, they pull the shoulder joint forward resulting in hunched shoulders.
Serratus anterior wraps around the side of your rib cage on each side and acts to pull your shoulder blade forward
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Anatomy Of The Upper Back Muscles
The neck consists of seven cervical vertebrae, the building blocks of the spine. Each block is separated by a disc that sits in between and each vertebra has a facet joint on either side. The seventh cervical vertebra, referred to as C7, meets the first of 12 thoracic vertebrae T1 at the base of the neck, a point known as the cervicothoracic junction. This can be a common source of pain as the spinal curves transition from lordotic to kyphotic An increased kyphotic thoracic curve can result in you developing a prominent hunchback posture.
Each level of vertebra has a pair of nerve roots, one coming from each side of the spine. These nerve roots trail down to supply their corresponding portion on the arm. This is how referred pain can occur, if a nerve root is irritated or inflamed at the spine, symptoms can be felt in the corresponding region e.g. in the forearm or fingers. For instance, if you injure C7, you may feel pain in your index and middle fingers.
The shoulder blades, known as scapula, are responsible for the stability of the shoulder and forearm movement. They rotate, retract and protract and their movement patterning and stability can greatly affect your posture and arm function. If the muscles surrounding the shoulder blades arent functioning properly, you can end up with scapula winging where the shoulder blades stick out.
How To Do The Cat
- The starting stance is on all fours on your mat, with your neck in a neutral position.
- Align your knees directly under your hips with your palms lined up under your shoulders.
- As you inhale through your nostrils, pull behind in an arch to the center of your spine, like a cat.
- Pull your tummy toward your spine and allow your head to droop and relax.
- Hold this position for three to five breaths.
- Next, exhale slowly through your lips and return to the starting position.
- Go into the cow position by turning your face toward the ceiling.
- Sink your belly slowly toward the mat, so your middle back is concave. Hold this pose for three to five breaths.
- Finally, return to the starting position. This completes one set, and your goal is at least five repetitions.
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Sitting Too Long Try 3 Simple Stretches To Fix Upper Back And Neck Pain
Most people will wake up, get ready, drive to work, and sit for most of the day. They will then come home and feel so exhausted that they will immediately sit down in front of the TV and enjoy some much needed relaxation time with their favorite television show. Unfortunately, all this sitting is the norm. And its killing us.
Research has found that U.S. life expectancy drops by 2 years when people sit for more than 3 hours a day, and another 1.4 years for watching TV more than 2 hours a day.
And this is only the beginning. The result? Pain.
What Is Cervical Instability
Atlas pain or upper cervical instability occurs when the skull and spinal cord ligaments are loose. This orthopedic condition can be categorized by hypermobility of the cervical vertebrae. This means that the neck vertebrae can move beyond their normal range of motion caused by the loose or overly stretched-out ligaments. Consequently, the Atlas will have difficulty supporting the head, leading to twisting or turning the neck and the head tilted in an off-balanced position.
Typically, a doctor will evaluate the patient’s symptoms and history. They may suggest some testing methods to diagnose whether the patient has upper cervical spine disorder properly:
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Sticking Your Bottom Out
Wearing high heels, excessive weight around the stomach and pregnancy can all contribue to a “Donald Duck” posture.
To help correct your standing posture, imagine a string attached to the top of your head pulling you upwards.
The idea is to keep your body in perfect alignment, maintaining the spine’s natural curvature, with your neck straight and shoulders parallel with the hips:
- keep your shoulders back and relaxed
- pull in your abdomen
- keep your feet about hip distance apart
- balance your weight evenly on both feet
- try not to tilt your head forward, backwards or sideways
- keep your legs straight, but knees relaxed
Watch a video on improving your posture.
Exercises And Stretches To Relieve Pain
There are several exercises and stretches you can do to relieve rhomboid muscle pain. These exercises can help improve your recovery and prevent pain from returning.
Make sure youre able to do the exercises without pain or strain. You may need to have a period of rest before you begin these exercises. Dont push yourself too hard or too soon.
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Final Thoughts On Back And Neck Pain
These stretching exercises aim to minimize your pain, not worsen it. If you feel any pain while doing these, stop immediately. You can also consult a certified fitness expert for exercises tailored to your needs.
Its exasperating to spend a day with spine or neck pain. Consider trying these helpful exercises or adding them to your usual fitness routine. They can make your muscles and joints more robust, more flexible, and provide a reasonable measure of pain relief.
What Can I Do About Acute Back Or Neck Pain
The key to recovering from acute back or neck pain is restricting your activity and taking over the counter medications, because most back pain is related to muscle strain. In most cases, acute back pain will go away on its own over a period of days. Here are some tips that will help you recover:
1. Take it easy If you think you’ve hurt your back, ease up on the pressure you’re putting on your back. Many people actually have little choice in the mattertheir back pain will force them to drop to their knees or “freeze” in a bent-over position. Others will be able to function somewhat normally, but with uncomfortable pain. Contrary to popular belief, studies on acute back pain actually show that a few days of restricting your activity, and taking the appropriate over-the-counter medication, is all that many people really need to allow the strained muscles to relax and unbind. However, it is important to talk with your health care provider before taking any medication, especially if you are taking other medications or have a chronic medical condition.
2. Ice, then heat Remember this rule: “Ice first for 48 hours, then heat.” Ice and heat can alleviate local pain that comes from muscle and ligament strain. Ice slows swelling and inflammation and acts as a local anesthetic, but after 48 hours, it loses its effect. Using heat afterwards increases blood flow to the deep tissues and relaxes muscle spasms.
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Seated Levator Scapulae Stretch
Targeted muscle: Stretches Levator Scapulae.Because of rounded shoulders and forward head position This is one of most effective upper back stretches because the Levator scapulae muscle in particular gets very tight from our cell phone texting and prolonged desk work.How to do it: Begin in a seated position and grasp the bottom of your chair with your right hand. Bring your chin in towards your chest and rotate your head towards the left shoulder. Then using your left arm gently push your head down looking towards your left armpit until you feel a slightly stretch along with right side of your neck. Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side. Aim for 3 repetitions of this stretch on each side.
Causes Of Upper Back Pain And Pain Between Shoulder Blades
Technically, the upper back is classified as the thoracic spine, which unlike the cervical spine and lumbar spine , does not allow for any movement. Because of this, discs and vertebrae in that region are not generally susceptible to the normal wear and tear that affects other areas of the spine. This means that upper back pain is usually caused by something other than a degenerative spine condition.
The stiffness, muscle spasms, headaches, and other general pain symptoms that come with upper back pain can be caused by a variety of factors. Injuries to other parts of your body, such as rotator cuff tears, spine fractures, or other injuries that cause trauma, can also lead to pain between your shoulder blades. A common injury is a stretching or tearing of the upper back muscles or a Trapezius Strain. This large group of muscles span the upper back, shoulders and neck. This muscle group are commonly called the trap muscles.
Some of the most common causes of upper back pain can include:
- Poor posture or looking downward for long periods of time
- Recent or semi-recent accident trauma
- Improper lifting
- Sports or overuse injuries
- Neck or shoulder strain
There are many spine conditions that can limit your mobility and cause chronic pain, and eventually may require surgery. Some of those more serious causes of upper back or shoulder blade pain may include:
- Carrying bags that are too heavy
- Weak abdominal muscles
Muscle Strain of the Upper Back
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Where Is Your Upper Back Pain
To fix your upper back pain, you need to know, with precision, two things:
When a new patient comes into our office, theyll say I have upper back pain when its actually a shoulder or neck problem or vice versa.
You and I need to agree on the location and probable area of problem before we try to fix it.
Otherwise, any intervention, therapy, or treatment is aimed at the wrong problem.
Open up a document or get a pen and paper to take notes. Ill share an example of someones hypothetical notes below.
Is it above your shoulder blades, where A is? If YES, you have a NECK problem .
Is it even on the horizontal plane with your shoulder blades, but off them, close to the spine, where B is? If YES, you have a NECK or UPPER BACK problem.
Is it on the shoulder blades, where C is? If YES, you have a probable SHOULDER problem or a small chance of a NECK problem.
Is it below the shoulder blades, where D is? If YES, you have a MID BACK problem.
What Is Pain Between Shoulders Blades
Upper back pain between the shoulder blades can be felt on one side or both sides of your body. It may be acute or chronic . You may experience the following symptoms:
- A sharp, short burst of pain
- Dully achy pain that lingers
- Pain when you take a deep breathe
- Pain thats local to the area between the shoulder blades, or pain that spreads to your arms or other areas of your back.
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Common Posture Mistakes And Fixes
Exercises and tips to help alleviate muscle tension caused by poor sitting and standing habits.
Physiotherapist Nick Sinfield describes 8 common posture mistakes and how to correct them with strength and stretching exercises.
If you have back pain, improving your posture is unlikely to address the root cause of your pain, but it may help alleviate muscle tension.
“Correcting your posture may feel awkward at first because your body has become so used to sitting and standing in a particular way,” says Sinfield.
“But with a bit of practise, good posture will become second nature and be 1 step to helping your back in the long term.”
What Are The Symptoms Of Back And Neck Pain
Symptoms associated with back pain may include:
Dull, burning, or sharp pain in your back. The pain can be confined to a single spot or cover a large area
Leg numbness or tingling above or below your knee
Stiffness or achiness that occurs anywhere along your spine
Sharp, shooting pain that radiates from your low back to your buttocks, down the back of your thigh, and into your calf and toes
Consistent ache in the middle or lower part of your back, especially after standing or sitting for an extended period
Loss of bladder and bowel control, with weakness in both legs, are symptoms of a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Symptoms associated with neck pain can be:
Arm numbness or tingling
Sharp shooting pains or a dull aches in your neck
Pain that occurs suddenly in your back or neck, due to an injury, is considered to be acute pain. Acute pain comes on quickly and may leave sooner than chronic back or neck pain. This type of pain should not last more than 6 weeks.
Pain that may come on quickly or slowly and lingers for weeks, 3 months or greater, is considered to be chronic pain. Chronic pain is less common than acute pain.
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Sleeping And Lying Down
- Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your mattress. You can also place the mattress on the floor temporarily if necessary.
- If you’ve always slept on a soft surface, it may be more painful to change to a hard surface. Try to do what is most comfortable for you.
- Use a back support at night to make you more comfortable. A rolled sheet or towel tied around your waist may be helpful.
- Use a firm pillow that supports the curve of your neck.
- Do not sleep on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest.
- When standing up from the lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.