Sharp Pain Under Shoulder Blade on The Right and Left Side and Causes

Pain under shoulder blade can be sharp or dull and may be felt on the left or right shoulders. You might also experience pain between shoulder blades and the back or neck, and it may occur at night when sleeping or even when eating. Here are the causes of sharp pain under the left and right shoulder blades down the arm with treatments and pain relief tips.

Any pain experienced under one’s shoulder blade should not be ignored. Pain under the shoulder blade could be a minor issue but it could also be indicative of a much serious health condition that could affect the way you conduct your day to day activities if you do not seek medical attention.

Pain under shoulder blade
Pain under shoulder blade – Image Courtesy of

Causes of pain under your shoulder blade

As already stated, pain under the shoulder blade could be indicative of a number of illnesses and could also be caused by various things ranging from aging to injury amongst others. Here are some causes of pain under shoulder blade.

1.      Aging

The aging process can be really tough on one’s body. As you age, your body generally becomes weaker. The aging process also affects one’s bones. Osteoporosis is a common condition that affects the bones making them weaker.

Once your bones are weak, even the slightest of falls, or contact with a hard surface could cause you a great deal of pain.

2.      Poor posture

Poor posture can also cause shoulder pain
Poor posture can also cause shoulder pain

Poor posture occurs in many situations. It could be your sitting patterns at your desk at work. According to Enkivillage using a computer mouse in poor posture for a long period could cause you pain in your shoulder blade. Your sleeping position, and also failure to observe proper form while lifting weights and kettle bells at the gym could also cause you severe pain under the shoulder blade.

3.      Frozen shoulder

Having a frozen shoulder is usually a strong indicator that you do not have enough synovial fluid in your shoulder. This fluid is important for the smooth movement of the shoulder. Lack of it could be quite uncomfortable because any movement causes immense pain.

4.      Heart attacks and shoulder pain

Heart attacks and shoulder blade pains are related
Heart attacks and shoulder blade pains are related.

For many men and women, heart attacks are usually characterized by sharp pains around the shoulder blade. For men it usually is a sharp pain in the shoulder while women experience both sharp pains in the shoulder and back.

Conditions such as heart attacks, pericarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart,) or aortic dissection may be experienced as pain in the left shoulder blade.

5.      Lung conditions

Blood clots in the right lung and pneumonia could cause pain right below the shoulder blades and especially the right shoulder blade. This pain is usually made worse when one takes very deep breaths. Lung cancer may also cause pain below the shoulder blade that is not affected by movement and may be worse at rest than in motion.

6.      Pain under shoulder blade after a cholecystectomy

A cholecystectomy is surgery to remove one’s gall bladder. You may need this procedure to be carried out if:

  • Your gallbladder has gallstones.
  • Your gallbladder is inflamed, or has cholecystitis (to mean that it has an infection)
  • Your gallbladder is cancerous.

Gall bladder problems may generally be characterized by pain which (amongst others) may be experienced in your back and in the tip of your right shoulder blade.

7.      Shoulder blade pain after injury or accident

Shoulder blade pain is commonly caused by minor injuries or accidents. These injuries may include sudden injuries like twisting the shoulder and falling. Others are caused by overuse of the shoulder muscles, pulled muscles, pinched nerves and wearing out of tendons.

8.      Development of breast cancer

Pain under the right shoulder blade is one of the most unconventional signs that one has breast cancer. One sign that breast cancer has spread is pain in the shoulder blades or directly below the shoulder blade.

If the cancer is in the right breast and it begins to spread, the pain will be in the right shoulder blade. Anyone who is at risk for breast cancer and has pain in the shoulder blades should be checked.

9.      Shoulder pain from playing golf

Golf is a sport that involves the continuous use of one’s arms, chest and especially the shoulder muscles in order to successfully hit the ball off the tee and into the hole. The shoulders are often put through so much use and as such are subject to overuse and this leads to tear of muscles and tendons. This is what causes pain under the shoulder blade.

10. Developing a fracture

One of the strongest causes of shoulder pain would be a fracture of the collarbone or shoulder blade. Any accident traumatizing the bones may lead to a crack and as the pain has a radiative nature, it covers the entire shoulder. In some cases, you may need surgery to reposition the bone and to then follow post-surgical exercises

Sharp Pain Under Shoulder Blade

This is the kind of pain that one should definitely not ignore. According to WebMD most often this kind of pain is caused by arthritis. However, other times it is a sign of aortic dissection which is often characterized by a sudden sharp pain.

“People who are at risk have conditions that can change the integrity of the vessel wall. These would include high blood pressure, a history of circulation problems, smoking, and diabetes,” says Dr. Brangman, who is professor and chief of geriatrics at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y.

Pain under Shoulder Blade and Back

Common pain points under shoulder blades
Common pain points under shoulder blades.

Pain in the back below the right shoulder blade can be a result of abdominal issues. The brain perceives pain from the gallbladder or liver as coming from the right shoulder blade, because the nerves for sensation in these organs enter the spinal cord at the same level.

Tumors Aneurysms are weaknesses in the wall of blood vessels, and aneurysms in kidney or pancreas vessels will cause pain near the right shoulder blade near the back when they leak or rupture.

Related Symptoms

Pain under shoulder blades can be accompanied by other symptoms. These include heartburn and gas or bloating stomach, pain when coughing etc. Some people complain of sharp pain under and between shoulder blades when eating or swallowing food.

1.      Heartburn and gas

Gastrointestinal issues caused by gas a cause a burning sensation or feeling of fullness in the middle of the chest, usually occurs within an hour after eating, and is often brought on by certain types of food.

Most heartburn sufferers feel it right underneath the breastbone, but occasionally a “referred” burning is felt in the back between the shoulder blades.

2.      Calcific tendonitis.

Calcific tendinitis, a chronic inflammation of rotator cuff tendons whose cause is unknown,  can cause mild or severe and sharp pain in the shoulder and upper arm that comes and goes; other symptoms can include stiffness, catching or snapping in the shoulder.

3.      Originating from the rib cage and spinal cord.

Shoulder pain related to breathing and coughing can originate from the spinal and rib-cage joints in different parts of the neck and thorax. If the pain is in the upper-back and back of shoulder it is more likely to be coming from a jammed and inflamed joint in the neck and the muscles protecting it. This causes pain ad makes it hard for one to breathe.

4.      Sharp pain under shoulder blade when coughing

Shoulder pain while coughing is a strong indicator of an underlying issue. It could be caused by the smallest of things like a minor fracture. It can also be caused by the following:

  • Bacterial Pneumonia.
  • Pleurisy-which is an inflammation of the lung membrane.

5.      Pericarditis

This is the swelling and irritation of the pericardium. The main symptom of this disease is severe stabbing pain in the chest. Sometimes this pain travels to the shoulder and can be felt under the shoulder blade. Another symptom usually experienced by patients is a sharp pain while laying down or when they take a deep breath.

Pain under Left Shoulder Blade

Pain under the left shoulder blade is caused by a myriad or reasons. This pain can also be of itself, or may arise from other organs and manifest itself as shoulder blade pain. Some of the causes of this pain include:

Scapula Fracture

A scapula fracture can cause left shoulder blade pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons or AAOS, scapula fractures account for less than 1 percent of all broken bones.

Pancoast Tumor

A Pancoast tumor can cause left shoulder blade pain. The National Cancer Institute or NCI–a division of the National Institutes of Health–states that a Pancoast tumor, also known as a sulcus tumor, is a type of lung cancer that manifests in the lung’s upper lobes and can spread to neighboring tissues, including the ribs and the vertebrae.


Pain in Right Shoulder Blade.

According to doctors, pain in the right shoulder blade is most likely caused by muscular pain. It can be relieved my taking medication that relaxes the muscles. If however the pain is caused by shortness of breath and chest pain it would be prudent to see a doctor.

Women also report shoulder blade pain during pregnancy. This pain can be attributed to simple reasons as poor sleeping posture and digestive issues. Sometimes however, this pain may be an indicator of a more serious disorder known as pre-eclampsia. This is a condition where the placenta producing substances, which enter the mother’s blood stream and lead to health complications. The most common symptom of this condition is high blood pressure.

Judging by the many symptoms mentioned above, pain under shoulder blade is not something you should take lightly. The moment you experience this pain, you should seek medical attention. Prevention is better than cure after all.

Sources and references

  1. com:
  2. Livestrong:
  3. eHealthStar:

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