Pain in the upper shoulder blade, also called the scapula, is a common problem. It may be caused by an injury or overuse of muscles and joints in the back. It may also be a sign of a heart attack.

If you are experiencing a persistent, severe, or sudden pain in the area of your shoulders and upper back, talk to a doctor immediately. The doctor will take a thorough medical history and conduct a physical exam to see what is causing your symptoms. They will ask questions about when your pain started and whether it is getting worse or better. A doctor may order an imaging test to look at the shoulder bones and surrounding structures. This can include a chest X-ray, an ultrasound, or a computed tomography (CT) scan.

The most common cause of upper shoulder blade pain is overuse of the muscles and tendons in the neck, upper back, and shoulders. This includes activities such as typing, lifting heavy objects, and sports that require repetitive movements. It can also be caused by poor posture, which causes the spinal discs and muscles to weaken over time.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications that reduce inflammation, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can help relieve some types of shoulder blade pain. Some OTC medications also work to stop or change the way pain signals are sent to the brain. Your doctor may recommend that you massage the muscles in the area of your shoulders and spine. They may suggest using a foam roller or handheld massage devices for self-massage.

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