Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Shoulder Pain


An upper back pain between the shoulder blades is a type of pain I find very satisfying to work with … and it is a condition for which manual treatment and exercise programs really gets results! Often the cause is easy to identify and we can quickly get to work on treating it.

There are a number of underlying causes to this type of shoulder blade pain such as incorrect posture, disc injuries, whiplash injuries and sometimes lung conditions. Treatments include postural correction, manipulation and specific exercises to strengthen the area.

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Pain between the shoulders - The common causes and treatments

If you have a pain between your shoulder blades, then you are not alone! It is a very common condition, and becoming more so with the arrival of smart phone and tablets! It can be due to:

- Poor sitting posture: - the most common cause of pain between shoulder blades that I see on a daily basis. Consider this - your spine should naturally curve outwards slightly at your shoulder blade level. However poor sitting posture and particularly computer posture is very common, and usually results in your mid-back curving outwards too much. This ‘chin-poke’ / slumped posture combination results in excess pressure being placed on this area of your spine. The result is usually middle back pain between your shoulder blades.

Over time, this may lead to an over-stretching of the muscles and ligaments around this area of the spine, which will eventually scream at you to unload them by giving you pain!

The treatment of this condition involves correcting to good posture to unload the overstretched tissues and then back strengthening exercises to make a natural sitting posture easier to maintain.

- Thoracic kyphosis: Your thoracic spine will natually curve outwards, but if you have an excessive curve in your mid-back it is called a “thoracic kyphosis”. The cause of Kyphosis can be genetic or result from poor sitting habits. If you leave this posture untreated, it can cause moderate to severe and chronic shoulder pain in the shoulder blade area.

Treatment is required to correct the curve where possible - but when it is structural and cannot be corrected, exercises are required to strengthen this area of your back and help unload the pressure on the strained muscles, joints and ligaments. Getting and following a special exercise program, will ease your pain greatly, if not completely.

- Lung conditions: If you have a chest infection or lung condition you may get pain between your shoulder blades. Treatment includes treating the lung complaint with medication and breathing exercises, as well as unloading the muscles and joints affected by your lung condition (also see upper back pain lungs).

- Disc injuries: May arise in your neck or mid-back, and may refer pain to between your shoulder blades. Treatment is directed towards realigning your disc, followed by specific exercises to strengthen and mobilise your back so that you will not have a re-occurrence.

  • Whiplash injuries: May refer pain into your mid-back and between your shoulder blades. Treatment is needed to unload the affected spinal leves, followed by mobilisation exercises to the affected area and specific exercise to resolve your whiplash injury.

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As always, diagnosis is the key! If you have pain between your shoulder blades, it could be due to a number of reasons, a few of the most common ones which I have mentioned here.

Ensure that you receive a correct diagnosis from your Physiotherapist or Doctor- this will ensure that the correct treatment is applied for your specific situation.

Good luck!


While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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