Right shoulder blade pain, especially if you’re right-handed, can limit your range of motion and the diversity of tasks you can perform. But in order to understand the right shoulder blade pain, we must first understand how our scapula (shoulder blade) function.
The shoulder blades are two flat, triangular bones located on each side of our upper back. They are connected to the upper arms and collar bone along with muscles that run along the upper back and arms.
There are many reasons why our shoulders are in pain, including bad posture, psychological stress, overuse of the shoulder, injuries, pinched nerves, lung disease, and other issues with chest and abdominal organs.
Here we will outline the common causes of right shoulder pain along with potential treatments to help you ease your condition.
Causes of the right shoulder blade pain
Gallbladder disease: A gallbladder attack can cause pain under the right scapula, and the pain can radiate from the upper abdomen to the shoulder.
Heart attack: Although pain may be commonly experienced on the left side, it may also radiate to the right shoulder during a heart attack. Pain will also be experienced in the jaw and left shoulder.
Liver disease: Liver disease can lead to radiating pain under the right shoulder because the liver is located under the right rib.
Breast cancer: Right shoulder pain experienced in breast cancer could indicate cancer advancement, and patients should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.
Arthritis, osteoarthritis: Arthritis or osteoarthritis can affect the scapula, causing shoulder blade pain.
Frozen shoulder: Also known as adhesive capsulitis, it is inflammation and thickening of the shoulder capsule, which wraps the shoulder joint. The condition can take years to heal, but can be aided in physiotherapy exercises.
Fibromyalgia: This chronic condition is characterized by allover pain with unknown cause. Fibromyalgia patients are known to have tender points, and shoulder blades are among those tender points.
Sleeping the “wrong way”: Sleeping for prolonged periods of time on one side or simply sleeping at an odd angle can cause shoulder blade pain.
Shoulder muscle overuse: Overuse of shoulder muscles, whether through exercise or work, can cause shoulder pain.
Abdominal conditions (GERD, stomach disorders): Sometimes, a shoulder blade pain can stem from stomach and digestive issues. This type of pain can occur in the right shoulder and is a result of gallstones, peptic ulcers, and liver disease.
Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes the bones to become thin and fragile. The scapula can be affected by osteoporosis, resulting in pain.
Lung conditions and tumor: Lung conditions – like pulmonary emboli, a collapsed lung, or lung tumors – can contribute to shoulder blade pain.
Bone metastases: Bone metastases occur with the spread of a cancerous tumor. The shoulder pain is often a result of the spreading breast, lung, esophageal, and colon cancer.
Fractures: Fracturing the scapula is quite difficult, but it is possible. Scapula fractures commonly occur as a result of a car accident or a fall and can lead to shoulder blade pain.
Shingles: Shingles is an infection caused by the chickenpox virus. This type of shoulder blade pain is often experienced as a burning sensation followed by a rash.
Muscle strains, muscle contusion (bruise): Overuse of the muscles surrounding the shoulder can result in shoulder blade pain. Other causes of muscle strain include changing the workout routine, overusing muscles, lifting heavier weight than what you are used to, or sleeping in one position for too long.
Disc disease: Compression of nerves in the neck due to a collapsed or displaced disc can result in shoulder blade pain. You may also experience pain in your neck, as well as tingling or numbness down your arms to your fingers.
Rotator cuff injury: This injury is most common among athletes and affects one of the four muscles of the rotator cuff.
Nerve impingement: If your shoulder blade pain radiates down your arm, it could be a result of nerve impingement. You may also experience a burning sensation in your hand.
Tips to alleviate the symptoms of right shoulder blade pain
The cause of your right shoulder pain will determine what kind of treatment you require. In many of the above mentioned causes of pain in the right shoulder, home remedies can help reduce the pain and discomfort experienced. If the cause is more serious, you will need to see your doctor for medical intervention.
Here are some tips to help alleviate right shoulder blade pain and related symptoms.
- Rest the shoulder and allow it to heal.
- Apply cold and hot compresses to reduce swelling and ease muscle tension.
- Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.
- Lose extra weight.
- Keep proper posture.
- Complete daily stretches to reduce your risk of future injuries to the shoulder.
When to see a doctor for right shoulder blade pain
If right shoulder blade pain is accompanied by difficulty breathing, chest pain, chest tightness, or nausea, it could be an indication of a heart attack and you should see your doctor immediately.
There are a few other pointers that should prompt you to see the doctor right away. Pay special attention if the area is warm, swollen, and the swelling doesn’t go down even after icing the area; if there is an obvious deformity, or if you are unable to use the shoulder.
Related: Pinched nerve in shoulder blade: Causes, symptoms, treatments, and exercises