24 May 2024
Discover the causes of pain between shoulder blades after sleeping and learn simple solutions to find relief. Explore muscle tension, poor posture, overuse of shoulder muscles, spinal conditions, pinched nerves, inflammation and joint problems, digestive issues, lung and heart conditions. Find out how to alleviate pain and improve your sleep.

You know that feeling of waking up in the morning with a dull, nagging pain between your shoulder blades? It’s not the ideal way to start your day, that’s for sure. In this article, we will explore the possible causes behind this discomfort and offer some simple solutions to help ease the pain. So if you’re tired of waking up with aching shoulders, read on to discover what might be causing it and how you can find relief.

Muscle Tension and Posture

Causes of Pain Between Shoulder Blades After Sleeping

Muscle Imbalances

Many people experience pain between their shoulder blades after sleeping due to muscle imbalances. These imbalances occur when certain muscles become weak or tight, leading to an imbalance in muscle strength and flexibility. When the muscles in the upper back and shoulders are not properly balanced, it can result in pain and discomfort in the area between the shoulder blades.

To address muscle imbalances, it is important to engage in exercises that target the muscles in the upper back and shoulders. Strengthening exercises such as shoulder shrugs and rows can help build strength in these muscles. Additionally, stretching exercises like doorway stretches and chest stretches can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension in the area between the shoulder blades.

Poor Posture

Poor posture is another common cause of pain between the shoulder blades after sleeping. When you maintain a slouched or hunched posture throughout the day, it puts excessive strain on the muscles in the upper back and shoulders. Over time, this can lead to muscle tightness and discomfort between the shoulder blades.

To improve your posture and reduce pain, it is important to be mindful of your body alignment throughout the day. Sit and stand with your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and chin slightly tucked in. Engaging in exercises that focus on strengthening the core muscles and stretching the chest and upper back can also help improve posture and alleviate pain between the shoulder blades.

Overuse of Shoulder Muscles

Overusing the shoulder muscles can contribute to pain between the shoulder blades, especially if you engage in repetitive activities that strain these muscles. Activities such as lifting heavy objects, carrying a backpack, or participating in sports that require overhead movements can lead to muscle fatigue and tension in the upper back.

To prevent overuse of the shoulder muscles and reduce pain, it is important to practice proper body mechanics when engaging in activities that involve the shoulders. This includes using proper lifting techniques, taking frequent breaks to rest the muscles, and avoiding repetitive movements that can strain the shoulders. Additionally, incorporating exercises that focus on strengthening and stretching the shoulder muscles can help improve their endurance and reduce the risk of pain between the shoulder blades.

Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position can also play a role in the development of pain between the shoulder blades. Sleeping on your stomach or with inadequate support can exert pressure on the muscles and joints in the upper back, causing pain and discomfort upon waking up.

To alleviate or prevent pain between the shoulder blades caused by sleeping position, it is advisable to sleep on your side or back with a supportive pillow that keeps your head and neck aligned with your spine. A pillow that provides adequate support to the neck and upper back can help relieve muscle tension and promote proper spinal alignment during sleep. Additionally, using a mattress that offers sufficient support and cushioning can also contribute to a good night’s sleep and minimize the risk of experiencing pain between the shoulder blades.

Spinal Conditions

Herniated or Bulging Disc

A herniated or bulging disc in the spine can cause pain between the shoulder blades. When the inner core of a spinal disc pushes out through a tear in the disc’s outer layer, it can compress nearby nerves and lead to pain and discomfort in the upper back.

If you suspect a herniated or bulging disc as the cause of your pain, it is essential to seek medical attention for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options. Treatment may involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery to alleviate the pressure on the affected nerves and relieve the pain between the shoulder blades.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canal, which can lead to compression of the spinal cord and nerves. This compression can result in pain, numbness, and tingling sensations, including between the shoulder blades.

Treatment for spinal stenosis aims to relieve the pressure on the affected nerves and reduce pain. Options may include non-surgical methods such as physical therapy, modifications to daily activities, and the use of pain medication. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to create more space within the spinal canal and alleviate the compression.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that occurs when the discs between the vertebrae in the spine deteriorate over time. This degeneration can lead to pain between the shoulder blades and other symptoms such as stiffness and limited range of motion.

Treatment for degenerative disc disease focuses on managing symptoms and preventing further degeneration. This may involve a combination of pain medications, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and in severe cases, surgical intervention to stabilize the affected area of the spine.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition characterized by an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. Depending on the severity and location of the curvature, scoliosis can cause pain between the shoulder blades and other areas of the back.

Treatment for scoliosis varies depending on factors such as the degree of curvature, age, and overall health. Options may include bracing to prevent further progression, physical therapy to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, and in more severe cases, surgery to correct the curvature.

Pinched Nerves

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when the nerves and blood vessels in the neck and shoulder region become compressed or irritated. This compression can lead to pain, numbness, and tingling sensations between the shoulder blades.

Treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome involves addressing the underlying cause of the compression, which may include physical therapy, postural correction exercises, and in severe cases, surgical intervention to relieve pressure on the affected nerves and blood vessels.

Cervical Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy refers to the compression or irritation of a nerve in the neck, leading to pain, numbness, and weakness that may radiate between the shoulder blades. This condition is commonly caused by a herniated disc or bone spur in the neck.

Treatment for cervical radiculopathy may involve a combination of pain medication, physical therapy, and possibly surgery if conservative measures do not provide relief. Physical therapy exercises aim to strengthen the muscles supporting the neck and improve range of motion while reducing pain.

Causes of Pain Between Shoulder Blades After Sleeping

Brachial Plexus Injury

A brachial plexus injury occurs when the nerves that control movement and sensation in the shoulder and arm are damaged. This type of injury can cause pain between the shoulder blades and may also result in weakness and loss of sensation in the affected arm.

Treatment for a brachial plexus injury will depend on the severity and location of the damage. In some cases, conservative measures such as physical therapy and pain management techniques may be sufficient. However, more severe injuries may require surgical intervention to repair or reconstruct the damaged nerves.

Cervical Rib

A cervical rib is an extra rib that forms above the first rib in some individuals. This extra rib can put pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the neck, leading to pain, numbness, and tingling sensations between the shoulder blades.

Treatment for a cervical rib often involves managing symptoms through physical therapy, pain medication, and postural exercises. In rare cases, surgical removal of the cervical rib may be recommended if conservative measures do not provide relief.

Inflammation and Joint Problems

Arthritis

Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints, and it can affect various areas of the body, including the joints between the shoulder blades. Common types of arthritis that can cause shoulder blade pain include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment for arthritis aims to reduce inflammation and manage pain. This may involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to address severe joint damage and alleviate pain.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Rotator cuff tendinitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the tendons that surround the shoulder joint. This inflammation can cause pain and discomfort between the shoulder blades, as well as weakness and limited range of motion in the shoulder.

Treatment for rotator cuff tendinitis typically involves rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy exercises, and modifications to activities that aggravate symptoms. In severe cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be considered.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that causes stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. This stiffness can extend to the area between the shoulder blades, resulting in discomfort and limited mobility.

Treatment for frozen shoulder often involves a combination of physical therapy exercises to restore range of motion, pain medication, and in some cases, corticosteroid injections. Surgery may be recommended in rare cases where conservative measures do not provide relief.

Bursitis

Bursitis refers to the inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that cushion the joints. When bursitis affects the shoulder joint, it can cause pain and tenderness between the shoulder blades, along with swelling and limited movement.

Treatment for shoulder bursitis usually includes rest, activity modification, pain medication, and physical therapy to reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms, and restore joint function. In some cases, corticosteroid injections or even surgical removal of the affected bursa may be necessary.

Digestive Issues

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation known as heartburn. This reflux can sometimes manifest as pain between the shoulder blades, particularly after lying down or eating.

Treatment for GERD often involves lifestyle modifications such as avoiding certain foods that trigger symptoms, maintaining a healthy weight, and elevating the head of the bed while sleeping. Medications that reduce stomach acid production or neutralize acid may also be prescribed.

Gallbladder Disease

Gallbladder disease refers to disorders that affect the gallbladder, such as gallstones or inflammation (cholecystitis). Pain from gallbladder disease can radiate to the area between the shoulder blades, often accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain and nausea.

Treatment for gallbladder disease depends on the specific condition present. In many cases, surgical removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is necessary to alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications.

Gastritis

Gastritis is the inflammation of the lining of the stomach, which can be caused by various factors such as infection, excessive alcohol consumption, or prolonged use of certain medications. In addition to upper abdominal pain, gastritis can sometimes cause referred pain between the shoulder blades.

Treatment for gastritis usually involves identifying and addressing the underlying cause, such as eliminating irritants from the diet or treating infections. Medications to reduce stomach acid and relieve inflammation may also be prescribed.

Lung and Heart Conditions

Pleurisy

Pleurisy is the inflammation of the pleura, a thin membrane that surrounds the lungs. This inflammation can cause sharp chest pain that may radiate to the area between the shoulder blades, especially during deep breathing or coughing.

Treatment for pleurisy focuses on addressing the underlying cause and reducing inflammation. Depending on the severity of symptoms, rest, pain medication, and in some cases, antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed.

Causes of Pain Between Shoulder Blades After Sleeping

Angina

Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart muscle does not receive enough blood and oxygen. This pain can radiate to various areas, including between the shoulder blades.

Treatment for angina often involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medication to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of complications, and, in some cases, surgical procedures to improve blood flow to the heart.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart is blocked, leading to the death of heart muscle tissue. Chest pain is a common symptom of a heart attack and can radiate to the area between the shoulder blades.

A heart attack is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. Treatment options will depend on the severity and location of the blockage but may include medications, emergency procedures (such as angioplasty or stenting), or coronary artery bypass surgery.

Injuries and Trauma

Muscle Strain

A muscle strain refers to an injury or overstretching of the muscle fibers. An injury or trauma to the muscles in the upper back can result in pain and discomfort between the shoulder blades.

Treatment for muscle strains typically involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) to reduce swelling and promote healing. Physical therapy exercises and pain medication may also be recommended to aid in recovery.

Shoulder Dislocation

A shoulder dislocation occurs when the upper arm bone pops out of the shoulder socket. This injury can cause intense pain, limited mobility, and sometimes pain between the shoulder blades.

Treatment for a shoulder dislocation usually involves reducing the dislocation by repositioning the bone, followed by immobilization in a sling or brace. Physical therapy exercises to strengthen the shoulder muscles and improve stability may also be recommended.

Fractured Ribs

Fractured ribs can occur due to a direct blow or trauma to the chest, causing significant pain in the area between the shoulder blades. The pain may worsen with deep breathing or movements of the upper body.

Treatment for fractured ribs generally involves pain management, rest, and avoiding activities that exacerbate pain. In severe cases, a rib belt or brace may be used for added support, and surgery may be required to repair the fracture.

Whiplash

Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when the head is suddenly forced backward and then forward, causing rapid movement of the neck. This type of injury commonly results from car accidents or sports-related incidents and can cause pain between the shoulder blades in addition to neck pain and stiffness.

Treatment for whiplash typically involves a combination of rest, pain medication, physical therapy exercises, and other pain management techniques such as heat or cold therapy. In severe cases, additional interventions such as spinal injections may be considered.

Nerve Irritation

Referred Pain from Other Areas

Sometimes, pain between the shoulder blades can be referred from other areas of the body. For example, conditions such as gallbladder disease or heart problems can manifest as pain in the shoulder blade region.

To address referred pain, it is important to diagnose and treat the underlying cause of the pain. Seeking medical attention is crucial in order to accurately identify the source of the pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Myofascial Trigger Points

Myofascial trigger points are tight knots or bands of muscle tissue that can refer pain to other areas of the body, including between the shoulder blades. These points often develop in muscles that are overused or injured.

Treatment for myofascial trigger points may involve manual therapy techniques such as trigger point release, stretching exercises, and physical therapy to address muscle imbalances and restore proper muscle function.

Cervical Facet Joint Irritation

The facet joints in the cervical spine can become irritated or inflamed, leading to pain between the shoulder blades. This irritation can occur due to conditions such as arthritis, injury, or wear and tear.

Treatment for cervical facet joint irritation often involves a combination of pain medication, physical therapy exercises, and interventions such as facet joint injections or radiofrequency ablation to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.

Lifestyle Factors

Obesity

Excess weight can contribute to poor posture and increase strain on the muscles and joints in the upper back and shoulders. This can lead to pain between the shoulder blades, among other issues.

Managing weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise can help alleviate strain on the upper back and shoulders, reducing the risk of pain between the shoulder blades. Additionally, focusing on posture and engaging in exercises that target the upper back and shoulders can further support weight management and improve overall musculoskeletal health.

Lack of Physical Activity

A sedentary lifestyle or lack of regular physical activity can contribute to muscle imbalances, poor posture, and weakened muscles, all of which can lead to pain between the shoulder blades.

Incorporating regular physical activity, including exercises that target the muscles in the upper back and shoulders, can help improve posture, strengthen muscles, and reduce the risk of developing pain between the shoulder blades. Additionally, maintaining an active lifestyle can have numerous other health benefits.

Stress

Stress can manifest physically in the body, including in the form of muscle tension and pain between the shoulder blades. When you are stressed, the body tends to hold tension in the upper back and shoulders, which can lead to discomfort and pain.

Engaging in stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and regular relaxation techniques can help reduce muscle tension and alleviate pain between the shoulder blades. It may also be beneficial to incorporate stress-reducing activities into your daily routine, such as hobbies, physical activity, or spending time in nature.

Improper Lifting Techniques

Lifting heavy objects with improper technique can strain the muscles in the upper back and shoulders, leading to pain between the shoulder blades. Lifting with a rounded back or using the upper body instead of the legs can place excessive stress on the muscles and joints, increasing the risk of injury.

To prevent pain between the shoulder blades due to improper lifting techniques, it is important to learn and practice proper body mechanics. This includes using the legs to lift, keeping the back straight, and using assistive devices when necessary. Additionally, engaging in regular strength training exercises that target the muscles involved in lifting can help improve overall strength and reduce the risk of injury.

Medical Conditions

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, including the area between the shoulder blades. Other symptoms can include fatigue, sleep disturbances, and mood changes.

Treatment for fibromyalgia involves a multidisciplinary approach that may include medications, physical therapy, psychological support, and lifestyle modifications. Engaging in gentle exercises, maintaining a balanced lifestyle, and managing stress can also help alleviate pain and improve overall well-being.

Autoimmune Diseases

Certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, can cause inflammation in the body, including in the joints and muscles of the upper back. This inflammation can lead to pain between the shoulder blades.

Treatment for autoimmune diseases typically focuses on managing symptoms and reducing inflammation. This may involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and close medical monitoring to ensure optimal disease management.

Cancer

In some cases, pain between the shoulder blades can be a symptom of certain types of cancer, such as lung cancer or breast cancer. It is crucial to seek medical attention if you experience persistent or unexplained pain in this area.

The treatment for cancer-related pain between the shoulder blades will depend on the underlying type and stage of cancer. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, pain medication, and palliative care to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

In conclusion, pain between the shoulder blades after sleeping can have various causes, ranging from muscle tension and poor posture to underlying medical conditions and lifestyle factors. Identifying the specific cause of the pain is essential in order to develop an appropriate treatment plan and alleviate discomfort. If you experience persistent or severe pain between the shoulder blades, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.

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