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What’s Causing My Shoulder Blade Pain?

Author: Niki L. Carayannopoulos, DO

Shoulder blade pain is a common symptom among patients of all ages. You might expect that an orthopedic physician with expertise in shoulder conditions would be involved in diagnosing and treating shoulder blade pain. And while you’d likely be right, you may also be surprised to learn this condition could require the care of a cardiologist, internal medicine doctor or radiologist.

Why? Shoulder blade pain is – in many cases – caused by non-orthopedic issues. We’ll discuss this more below. But before we take a look at a few of the common causes of shoulder blade pain, let’s clarify what’s meant by the “shoulder blade.” The shoulder blades are two triangle-shaped bones that support movement in the shoulder. In the medical world, they’re referred to as “scapulae” or “scapula” (plural and singular forms).

Causes of Shoulder Blade Pain

The shoulder blades are involved in many of the shoulder’s motions. Pain in this region may be caused by shoulder movement, or it may be caused by non-orthopedic issues, as mentioned above. Common causes of shoulder blade pain may include:

  • Gallbladder disease: Typically in the right shoulder blade.
  • Heart attack: Typically in the left shoulder blade.
  • Overuse injury: In either shoulder blade; this is the most common cause of shoulder blade pain, and may be caused from new (or intense) stretches and exercises.
  • Degenerative disc disease: If a spinal disc collapses in the neck, it could compress nerves, which refer pain to the shoulder blade. “Referred” pain is pain that is experienced in a different part of the body than where it originates.
  • Shingles: This infection can refer pain to the shoulder blade(s).
  • Lung disease: Tumors, cancer, emboli and collapsed lungs can all cause referred pain in the shoulder blade.

There are many more possible causes of shoulder blade pain, which is why it’s important to see a doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis. Learn more about the process below.

How Shoulder Blade Pain Is Diagnosed & Treated

Your Houston orthopedic doctor may begin the process with an evaluation. The evaluation may include many questions about your shoulder blade pain, as well as your medical history. Next, the doctor may perform a physical exam. The findings in the physical exam, along with a review of your symptoms and medical history, may lead to one or more diagnostic tests being ordered.

Diagnostic tests may include an x-ray, CT scan or MRI, lab blood tests, EKG or stress test, or other procedures. Your physician will explain why each test is being recommended, as well as any alternatives that could be available to you.

Treatment for shoulder blade pain will focus on the underlying cause of the pain. Treatments may include anything from rest and inflammation management to surgery. Talk to your Houston orthopedic doctor to learn more.

Schedule Now – See an Orthopedic Doctor In Houston

For more information, schedule an appointment with an orthopedic doctor at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics. Call (713) 756-5546, or schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.