What causes shoulder blade pain and back tightness and pain?

Here’s an email I received from a healthy young man who always exercised with no health issues other than debilitating back pain.

I used to work a very physical job with a lot of heavy lifting, bending, and twisting for an 8 1/2 hour shift. The job caused soreness, tightness and an aching pain between my shoulder blades and sometimes my lower back would get stiff but this all
would happen while I was actually working. It would go away after a good rest or a hot shower. I ignored it hoping it was nothing serious.

After a while my back would get extremely stiff and painful from just standing or walking for more than 15 minutes.  I ended up leaving the job and I have not been working or doing anything for 8 months.

Now if I stay home a couple days laying down or sitting down all day I get no tightness or pain but if I stand or walk for 20 minutes or more like to do dishes or to go
do groceries my upper back in between my shoulder blades especially the left side gets extremely stiff and sore to the point that even deep breathing hurts my upper back.

I have done muscle relaxers, ibuprofen, heat therapy, cold therapy, rice therapy, tennis ball therapy, physical therapy and all of those things only give me temporary relief because as soon as I have to stand or walk for a while, the tightness and pain comes right back.

The more I stand or walk the more tighter and painful it gets, even to the point that I want to die. I am told by doctors that the spine is fine and that my muscles or ligaments are causing the pain and that the muscles between my shoulder blades seem to keep going into spasms. I have gotten MRI’s of both thoracic and lumbar spine and doctors say everything is perfect.

I have been getting chiropractic treatment and everytime they crack my back it feels better for a while but then my upper back in between my shoulder blades and a little in the mid back comes back tighter and more painful with a big urge to crack my back again. I end up cracking it myself and after a small relief  the urge to crack it is more and more and so is the pain and tightness.

Now it is to the point that I could be home good for a couple of days but  if I stand for a while it gets so tight that just by deep breathing my upper back cracks by itself and than the urge and pain starts coming.

My life has changed so much and all I can do is stay home in order to avoid pain. I have tried strengthning my back but it cause too much pain even after a small light workout and it does not get better so I have stopped because I’m afraid to make it worst.

Why is it that my back gets so painful and tight between my shoulder blades when I do simple activities like just standing or walking and when I treat it I only get a temporary relief or until I move around again? What can I do?

Please Help..

Here is my answer plus a few more thoughts:

Here’s what I suspect is happening.

You have muscles on the front of your body that are pulling you forward and causing the muscles in your back to be strained or get knotted.

Those front muscles are in the front of your thighs, your abdomen, your chest and neck.  They need to be stretched, relaxed or released.  They need to get back to their normal length.  Massage is the best for this.  Stretching is the next best.  Heat and ice can help, too.  On The Front Of The Body!

At the same time, your back muscles do need to be strengthened.  You are on the right track but perhaps working too hard, using muscles that are fighting with each other.

Try this–it’s free:  I have a video about Simple Strengthening in the Knots In Your Back program but I also have a lot of articles about it at SimpleStrengthening.com

The type of back side of body (knees to skull) strengthening exercises or movements that I write about there (and made the video about) are very simple and are designed to be done in bed.  Nothing strenuous there.

Please note:  There is a body building tab at Simple Strengthening.  The body building tab is NOT for you at this time.  You do NOT want to strengthen your chest at this time.

There are also some articles about stretching your front muscles there.

The good news is that your tests have come back fine. 🙂  That generally means muscles are the cause.

And muscles are treatable!  You just have to understand where your back pain is coming from (the front muscles) and what to do about it.

I created the Knots In Your Back program to explain all of the possible causes as well as provide self-help instructions.  Sometimes the culprit is the muscles in your neck and a skilled well-trained massage therapist can release them (so can you with directions.  Those are in the program, too.)

Ask the therapist if he or she knows how to release the neck muscles that cause knots in your upper back.  Also ask them how they would do that.

You are on the right road.  Just tweak a bit.  You need to balance your muscles and posture.  A person with balanced posture and muscles has no pain in their upper back or anywhere else.


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2 Comments on Causes of Shoulder Blade Pain and Back Pain

  1. Ryan says:

    I have the exact same problem but I was wondering if it could come from having flat feet?

  2. Hey Ryan,

    You bet! Flat feet or ‘fallen arches’ can cause your foundation to be faulty. Instead of standing up with nice posture, people without arches tend to fall forward posture-wise.

    Here’s how to demonstrate this:

    Stand normally. Now make an arch in your feet. Lift your arches and then let it go. Let your feet be flat again.

    Okay. Do it again. When you lift your arches pay attention to where your body and head are. Let your arches collapse and you will have the sensation of your head moving forward. That’s what happens with no arches.

    The least expensive, longest lasting and easiest to obtain arch supports I have found are at running shoe stores. At this time, the cost is around $30 for a pair. They are firm and follow the length of your arch in a nice swoop (as opposed to a rock under your arch.) Don’t just buy your size–try on the size up and down from your normal size to get the arch that feels best to you.

    And then don’t start wearing them all day right off the bat. Rather, wear for an hour or two the first day or two. Then you can increase the time over the following days. This way the muscles in your legs, feet, hips and back can adjust to the correction gradually.

    Thank you for writing, Ryan. Flat feet can definitely cause back pain and shoulder blade pain.

    The Pain Relief Coach