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Lynne Eldridge MD

What Does it Mean if I Have Pain in My Shoulder Blades?

By April 29, 2013

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In the past year I've had 4 people tell me that shoulder blade pain was their first symptom of lung cancer. It's not something you would think of first. Most people associate lung cancer with a chronic cough and shortness of breath.

But while lung cancer is on the list of things that can cause shoulder blade pain, it's certainly not first. Nor is it second or third. Most people with this kind of pain have nothing to worry about. The most common cause of shoulder blade pain (or as doctors call it scapular pain) is muscle strains caused by things such as sleeping in the wrong position or working on your golf stroke.

So why would I even take the time to write about this?

Because shoulder blade pain - as noted by these 4 people - can be a sign of something much more serious than playing tennis too hard. Not just lung cancer, but things such as heart conditions can "declare" themselves with a symptom of shoulder blade pain.

How can you tell the difference between shoulder blade pain that's just a nuisance and pain that is more serious? Unfortunately it's not that easy. If you've been experiencing this kind of pain it's important to make an appointment to see your doctor. And as a quick reminder - if you don't get answers there, seek out a second opinion. Pain is a signal from your body that something is wrong. But pain doesn't tell you if it's a minor nuisance or something more serious. Listen to your body and make sure your doctor does as well.

Read more about the symptom and possible causes of shoulder blade pain:

July 19, 2013 at 4:03 pm
(1) Jerome says:

It’s really a cool and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you simply shared
this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this.
Thanks for sharing.

August 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm
(2) Michele says:

Thank you for this information, I woke up with this nagging pain in my shoulder blade and you have eased my mind, but I will call my doctor if its still there tomorrow.

September 12, 2013 at 11:37 pm
(3) Jackly says:

Really useful information, i build a blog about this topic and i have learned a lot from this site.

December 7, 2013 at 10:00 pm
(4) Asia says:

im really scared now im going to the doctors i smoke ciggarettes and i dont always have shoulder pain i get it once in the blue moon n i also keep a chronic cough

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March 29, 2014 at 8:44 pm
(6) milly says:

i was having upper back pain and right shoulder I have been at emerg twice had ultrasound on liver and gallbladder and ekg and echo cardiogram which showed one problem my heart valve has a cord bursted off and now i am looking at open heart surgery hoping to save my own valve but i am waiting now in pain and now it is so annoying it is so bad in my shoulder blade test that i got to have done now is transesophgeal echo cardiogram i dread the thoughts of this test and i am so nervous of swallowing that big tube to go down behind my heart ,i may never succeed with this then i got to have angiogram dye test and i am a wreck i dont like to think of this one either , so far not thinking on open heart surgery as i will be asleep for that & i cared for my husband who had it ,you are sore let me say that much , but this pain is something i was putting down to other things and i very well may still have other things wrong besides this but this is how this all started upper middle back pain and in your right shoulder since january i take tynol and use heating pad for relief i expect to get appointment this week for test all is faxed to cath lab and i may be on the list for open heart surgey as soon as this is done

May 5, 2014 at 3:27 pm
(7) Mary Oliver says:

I have had shoulder pain in my right shoulder blade for years. I only find relief by stretching and heat. I cannot play tennis I cannot do any kind of exercise that uses repetition of my right arm or puts it over my head. I am looking for answers my pain comes and goes. I have had in the past headaches from this pain that lasts for three days and they’re excruciatingly painful debilitating. If I don’t do anything I’m not supposed to which is everything I do not get the pain in my head if I walk and swing my arm just a little bit I get the pain is very debilitating. Please is there someone out there that can help me find out what this pain is so I know what kind of doctor to go to and where to start. I will be so grateful for any advice anyone can give me thanks. Mary

May 5, 2014 at 11:45 pm
(8) Nathan says:

This has me so scared I’m only 16 and I have never touched cigarettes but my parents smoke and for the past year or 6 months I have had this crazy pain at like the bottom of my shoulder blade and resently I have had these things were it feels like I’m not taking in a full lung of air but I am inhaling like normal. I’m so scared now I’m going to the doc this Wednesday day I hope its just a “sports injury” <I don’t play sports

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