Pain Between The Shoulder Blades?

Over the years I have helped many people alleviate pain between their shoulder blades; the three things that when addressed seem to have the biggest impact are neck and shoulder movement as well as breathing mechanics. The mid back is the space between your shoulder blades and your spine which can often become painful due to prolonged desk bound or seated periods.

Consider first off have you ever had a history of trauma to your neck, shoulders or have you ever suffered any significant respiratory issues? You may need to address all three areas, you may only need to resolve one in particular and you’ll see an improvement in the others as they have a very close relationship (outlined below)

Breathing through your shoulders and neck?

Arguably your serratus anterior muscle is the most significant in shoulder stability. It attaches to the first nine ribs and front of your shoulder blade. The serratus anterior is also a secondary muscle of respiration (breathing).

If you’re deskbound this powerful muscle of shoulder stabilisation can become a dominant muscle of respiration due to the prolonged static positions adopted by the neck, spine and ribcage. If the serratus anterior is being used for breathing then its preferred function of shoulder stabilisation becomes compromised.

Other secondary muscles of respiration are found in the neck (for the more anatomically minded the scalenes and SCM). Again when seated for long periods these muscles can become dominant in respiration. You take 25,000 breaths per day; if your neck muscles are being recruited more than necessary, this will compromise their main function and create tension.

One of the neck muscles specific to breathing has a nerve called the long thoracic nerve running through it, this nerve sends movement signals to the serratus anterior (major shoulder stabiliser mentioned above).Overuse of the neck musculature in breathing creates compression of this nerve, further compromising shoulder mechanics.

Suddenly you have a neck being used to breathe and compressing nerves for optimal shoulder health, a shoulder unable to stabilise due to loss of function of its primary stabiliser and 25,000 mini contractions of neck and shoulder musculature designed to support, not dominate breathing. The centre of all of this and area most likely to take a beating? You guessed it, between your shoulder blades.

What can be done?

  1. Learn to breath from your abdomen NOT through your neck and shoulders using the following drill –
  2. Create improved neck movement and control, try this movement –
  3. Build a strong serratus anterior muscle with the following exercise progressions –

All of the above exercises are not specific to you and your condition. If you’re still experiencing issues after trying these drills please feel free to drop me a message and we can discuss what else may need to be done.

Stay safe and best wishes,


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