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Reasons Behind Shoulder Pain

Armen Hareyan's picture

Pain between the shoulder blades, or any pain for that matter, is your body's way of notifying you that something is amiss. You should never ignore it and hope it will "go away by itself".


Pain between the shoulder blades, or any pain for that matter, is your body's way of notifying you that something is amiss. You should never ignore it and hope it will "go away by itself".

There are a multitude of possible causes of pain between the shoulder blades. We'll discuss common ones in this article and start with the most serious conditions first:

Heart Attack

Although the one of the classic signs of an impending or actual heart attack in males is pain in the shoulders, females frequently report pain between the shoulder blades instead.

If you are experiencing pain between the shoulder blades, combined with any of these symptoms, call your Doctor or 911 immediately! Your life may be in danger.

- Squeezing chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating
- Tightness in chest
- Recurring chest discomfort
- Pain spreading to shoulders, neck or arms
- Indigestion or gas-like pain
- Dizziness, nausea or vomiting
- Unexplained weakness, fatigue
- Discomfort/pain between shoulder blades
- Sense of impending doom

Gallbladder Disease / Gallstones

Although Gallbladder pain is commonly felt the right upper abdomen. It can also manifest itself as pain between shoulder blades or under the right shoulder blade.

Usually sudden and severe, the pain can last from 15 minutes to several hours. In severe instances, the pain may be accompanied by vomiting or sweating. Once the attack passes, it may not reoccur for a period of days, weeks, months, or even years. Whether it appears as pain between the shoulder blades, or in any of the more common areas, it is most likely to start after a meal that is high in fat.

SLIDESHOW: Work-Related Factors Effecting Shoulder Pain

The main treatment of gallbladder disease is to remove the gallbladder with a procedure called a laparoscopy cholecystectomy. This is the most popular way to remove the gallbladder because there is less post surgery pain, and it results in a shorter hospital stay.

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer, an abnormal cell growth in the liver, comes in two types:

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Primary cancer means that the cancer started in the liver. Or the liver occurs when the cancer starts in the liver.

Secondary cancer of the liver occurs when a cancer starts someplace else and spreads to the liver.

These early warning signs of Liver Cancer:

- A hard lump in the belly, below the rib cage on the right side.
- Discomfort in the upper belly on the right side.
- Pain around the right shoulder blade, or pain between the shoulder blades.
- Yellowish skin color (jaundice)
- Abdominal swelling causing a feeling of fullness

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer appears as tumors, or an abnormal growth of cells in the esophagus. The esophagus is the food passageway that connects the throat to the stomach.

Esophageal cancer usually does not display any symptoms until the cancer has advanced to a stage that is too late for a cure. The main symptom is difficulty in swallowing food. There is a frequent sensation of food getting stuck in the throat or chest.

Signs of advanced Esophageal cancer include:

- Pain when swallowing.
- Pain in the throat or back, behind the breastbone or pain between the shoulder blades.
- Decreased appetite and weight loss.
- Hiccups with the feeling of food getting stuck in your throat or chest.
- Vomiting and coughing up blood.

Less Scary Stuff

Of course, pain between the shoulder blade could just be the result of a muscle strain from too much time hunched over the computer's keyboard, stress, the way that you are sleeping at night, or other muscle injury caused by sports, exercise, normal aches and pains, or even a bra being worn to tightly.

If you are experiencing pain between the shoulder blades, don't lookup the worst case scenario and jump to conclusions. Look for additional supporting symptoms as well. Read: How To Treat Shoulder Pain As Well As Neck and Back Pain.

No matter what symptoms you have, consult your Doctor if you have even the slightest concern that something may be wrong.


Jessica Horowitz is a writer on health topics at Medical Supplies Services.
Jessica Horowitz Copyright 2004
This page is updated on May 11, 2013.



thanks this helped and it found that i had cancer in my breast. wow you guys are amazing im glad i read this then went to my doctor. i caught my cancer in the begginging.
I have had an ache between shoulder blades for the past week ..i am a male 57 non smoker but drink 10 cans of weak lager every night . I also have a prblem swallowing food gets stuck if i don,t chew properly
I had the same problem you need to go to a gastro doctor it sounds like you make have acid reflux, or esophagitis you need meds for this
For about 3 weeks I have had pain just under my right shoulder blade. Sometimes it is so sever it takes my breath away. My doctor had ultra sounds of my pancreas, kidney , liver and gall bladder. They discovered a 2 inch cyst on my kidney. After seeing a Urologist I was told that this would not have caused this pain. My doctor sent me fo Physical Theraphy, which he feels my be my problem, because I have scoliosis. This has help somewhat, but the pain keeps returning. I have quite a bit of belching and gas. I don't know what to do next. Please help.
pain in right shoulder some times heavy others mild and lots of gas top and bottom
I am a male 46 over weight 240 lbs. 5' 6" -- , i am a smoker in relative good health. My pain started about 2 weeks ago. The only new thing that i have done (new) is carry my grandson who is 3 months and weights 17 lbs. i do this about 2 hrs a day every day and have been doing this for about a month. I do get short a breath once in a while but i attribute this to my smoking. Any suggestions...
I'm a smoker so I say this sincerely. Stop smoking for the sake of your grandchild. My daughter lost my mom before she was two and has never met my dad. Please stop smoking. I'm desperate to quit. I realize that healthy and smoker used as adjectives for the same noun creates an oxymoron. I'd rather just be healthy.
I struggled with quitting for the longest time until my doctor prescribed Zyban. You need to take it longer than the recommended time (three months). It really works. You won't even want to smoke. People do not realize how difficult it is to break this horrible addiction. I started smoking when I was 14 in the late 70's when everyone smoked. I had no idea that I would become seriously addicted so quickly. I get the shoulder blade pain. It originates from arthritis in my neck. I get radiating pain in my chest, both shoulders, and down the back of my arms. Sometimes the pain radiates up to my jaw. You just never know what causes these problems until you go to a doctor.
Mine is caused by problems with the digestive tract. Lots of gas and wind. Probably insufficient digestive enzymes and you are not absorbing and digesting food properly. Mine caused by a bacteria in my stomach
Was your breast cancer found from having pain between your shoulder blades?
im having pain near right shoulder blade for 6 months and i have just noticed that i have a lump near it.
All of of sudden I am driving to pick my son up and my rihgt arm had very bad pain that is going into the rightb side of my back. I am 44 years old. Is it a heart atttack. I am waiting for my deoctor to call me back.
I had an attack of some sort last night...started with pain in side of neck and jaw and head ,and top of left arm....then noticed pain in chest....shortly after I started belching alot with some gas....then I would say about 5 to 10 min..went to the back between shoulder blades...anyone else experience this?...do I have liver cancer...I had my gallbladder removed in 2005...also been diagnosed with fatty liver at one time....any ideas?
Did you ever figure out what this was? I have had similar "attacks". In my case the pain seems to spread from my neck into my jaw and head (I can't really figure out where in my head the pain stops, but it feels like it is not a "headache" type pain, but something deeper) The pain also continues down into my chest and if I take deep breaths, the pain intensifies for a moment. I felt some relief after belching, but I can not be sure it is what caused the relief completely. I have never had any surgeries and I have only had bllod work done a few times in my life. (Once for a life insurance policy - that came back normal). Any suggestions? The pain is very intense and is concerning me.
You should see a Dr., it could have been a heat attack.
I bad some pain on my shoulder blade and also on my left breast, my pain it goes from minor and it increases, i went to do a memmogram but it came back normal. what do you think it is>
First of all I had by-pass surgery 4 years ago , I start having pain {coming and going } at the bottom of my shoulder blade. Please answer. I have imagined everything.
i have shoulder pain, dizziness and ringing of the ears. I fell on the ice up here colorado and i smacked my head on the concrete that had ice on it. What should i do?
Simple! Don't go smacking your headvon the conctete again. Lol
I'm currently having the same pain you are explaining. I have an appt next week for a mammo and ultrasound. I also feel lumps... but feel similar smaller lumps in my right breast. Can you please tell me what your outcome was? and what others had to say about your post that may help me?
I started with pain in my left shoulder 6 months ago. Since then I've had dizziness, head pressure, stiff neck and tight chest, but no-one can find anything wrong?
Everyone who is writing on this asking what to do needs to calm the $#i+ down. If you have medical questions, GO TO YOUR DOCTOR. Clearly you do not think it is that urgent if you are asking about it on here because you have no idea how long it is going to take someone to respond. Go to the doctor, if you don't get the answer you want, go to another one. Keep searching until you find concrete answers and solve your problem. If you really cared about your health you would press on until you found an answer. Good gravy people
then why the hell are you on here DA
whats gravy got to do go to do with it
some people don't have healthcare your f*$#in dolt
Your a jacka**...seriously.. not everyone can afford to go to the doctor and have all the tests done that are out there for back pain. Apparently you do though. So good for you. Idiot.
some of us can't afford to go to the doctor with 3 children to raise and provide insurance benefits as well as food for. maybe you need to calm the $#i+ down, if you don't have pain or a problem or anything helpful aside from "go to the doctor" to say or contribute, find a site that exhibits the same intolerant characteristics you do and leave the rest of us supportive individuals alone.
i am not sure what is going on with me i have had all kinds of test done for my paine between shoulders and they found 2 spots on my lung and a pinched nerve but neither dr wants to do anything along with a blood tumor they called on my liver............. I am in so much pain all the timeme.......Now I got shingles on the back of my left leg going around to the front ..........I wonder if all this has to with one another i know this pain is unbearable ..............
If you are still having these problems I would ask to be tested for valley fever!!
Some people pay out of pocket for health care, so when Drs keep misdiagnosing, it makes the person poor. Not all employers pay for health insurance or even part of it nowadays, so I am sure they care about their health or they would not be on here asking questions. We have enough ignorance in the world. Please do not add to it.