The most common cause of pain in between the shoulder blades is rounding the upper back, repeatedly and for long periods of time. This can happen at work, while driving or typing on your smartphone. And when you combine this with specialisation in just one or two athletic disciplines, you run the risk of exacerbating the stress and pain as a result. If you’re a cyclist or mountain biker, you spend long periods of time rounded over your handlebars. Surfers, swimmers and weightlifters put considerable stress through their shoulders and upper back. And for runners, the torso remains relatively immobile, which can contribute to the tension. In this article, I’ll give you 3 poses that you can start practicing today to reduce or eliminate the pain.
WHAT CAUSES PAIN IN BETWEEN THE SHOULDER BLADES?
When your upper back and shoulders are rounded forward, your shoulder blades start to pull away from each other. This over-stretches the muscles that support the shoulder blades—the rhomboids, lower trapezius and posterior rotator cuff muscles. Over time, this causes muscle fatigue and strain in the mid back.
Even though your instinct is probably be to stretch your upper back, this can actually make things worse. To address the imbalance that is causing the pain, you need to do the opposite. Stretch the muscles in the chest and the fronts of your shoulders, stabilise your shoulder blades and increase mobility in the thoracic spine.
3 POWERFUL POSES FOR REVERSING POOR POSTURE
You can practice these poses every day, separately or together. Hold each of them for 3-5 breaths and repeat 2-3 times. They can be fairly intense, so ease into them gently. Be careful not to use force or to put yourself in any position that causes you pain. Practice them every day for a few weeks and see how you feel.
If you are after more detailed instructions for the poses, click on the links as they will take you to my free full, video tutorials.
If you have an injury, please see a physical therapist to get the all-clear before practicing these exercises.
1. UPWARD FACING PLANK
This is the progression for Upward Facing Plank: Hammock, Crab and the full version of the pose. All three poses are effective for eliminating pain in between the shoulder blades, so take the variation that is best for you. Externally rotate your shoulders, lift your chest, lengthen your neck and gently squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other. Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths and repeat 2-3 times.
2. BRIDGE + FISH
If Fish pose is inaccessible for you, you can practice Bridge pose. These postures open up the chest and increase mobility in the thoracic spine. Hold one or both of these poses for 3-5 breaths and repeat 2-3 times. Again, lift your chest up and back, and draw your shoulder blades towards each other.
Here are 3 variations of Locust pose that you can cycle through for 3-5 breaths each. They are great for strengthening the muscles that support the shoulder blades. This includes the rhomboids, lower trapezius, and erector spinae, that run parallel to the spine. Focus on keeping your neck long as you draw your shoulders away from your ears.
YOUR 5 VIDEOS TO RELIEVE UPPER BACK PAIN
If you’re a subscriber to the site, here are 5 videos that you can practice for a longer-term solution to pain in between the shoulder blades. The first two are for beginners, the second two are intermediate and the final one is advanced.
OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO
- Take breaks during the activity or activities that you think might be contributing to your pain—riding your bicycle, working at your desk or driving your car.
- Pepper in chest-opening stretches and twists throughout your day.
- Take baths (with Epsom salts if possible) or hit the sauna.
- Get a massage.
I’d love to hear which poses you find effective for relieving pain in between the shoulder blades—both stretches and strengthening postures and any routines that you regularly practice for this issue.