Upper Right Back Pain,
Pain Under and Between Your Shoulder Blades

These pains are symptoms, (upper right back pain, pain under shoulder blades pain between shoulder blades), which left untended can cause lost nights of sleep and the sensation of shortness of breath, or the feeling that an anxiety attack is around the corner. Upper right back pain in particular can usually be attributed to one of these key postural strains:

Side Sleeping Posture (usually ON that side, but doesn't have to be)

Improper ergonomic setup at the computer-usually a right handed 'mouser' has their mouse too far forward or to the side (KEY cause of upper right back pain!)

Driving with that arm for long periods of time

Holding a child in that armHolding a book in that arm

Horse back riding

Essentially, all of these will require you to hold your arm in one position for long periods of time, and cause a strain to the muscles in the part of the shoulder, while they stabilize your arm. Upper right back pain can usually be pinpointed to a segment of the trapezius muscle. Frequently the pain between or under the shoulder blade can be linked to the strained and congested fibers of the lower trapezius, which attaches to the scapula. Usually an individual's first tendency is to want to stretch the muscle which is aching or sore. This can alleviate it sometimes for a short time, but frequently long term relief can be found by releasing the pressure pulling those muscles and your arm forward. We find with our clients, the muscles most involved with straining this group in the upper back are the pectoralis muscles. I know, it sounds counter intuitive...my back is hurting, but you are asking me to stretch my chest?? Yes, that's exactly what will alleviate much of the issues with upper back and neck tension.

Upper right back pain is frequently caused by a chronic postural strain over time...it is a 'stretching strain'. If we are on the computer, holding munchkins, writing or driving a ton (anyone who doesn't do one of those for several hours a day, raise your hand...) then the likelihood is that we can't maintain perfect, upright posture. If we are pulling our shoulders forward, after some time, our chest muscles will shorten, and because of the way they attach to our shoulder blade (scapula), upper arm bone (humerus), and collarbone (clavicle), it will strain the muscles in our upper back causing upper right back pain, pain under shoulder blades, between shoulder blades, and even up into the neck sometimes causing chronic headaches. Soon, we will have muscle charts and pictures on this page to help explain the imbalance phenomenon more visually, but for now, you'll have to trust that we work on many people EACH DAY who have their pain alleviated by our relieving pressure in their upper chest muscles.

So, other than NOT doing those things listed above when you have upper right back pain, what CAN you do to help to unravel the upper back pain pattern??

We not only suggest, but do 'pec stretches' every day. We work with our arms in front of us, ride bikes, hold our kiddos...all of which will shorten these muscles. My favorite is in a door way, I put my arm against the door jam and turn away from my arm slightly to get a stretch in my upper chest. This document is our stretching handout at the clinic for upper back, neck and shoulder tension. Right-Click here to download the GTS Massage Stretches for Upper Bpdy PDF file.

These stretches will help to open up the front of your body, to allow not only a more balanced posture, but frequently a sensation of being able to take a deeper breath.

Move your mouse at your computer, so that you don't have to raise your arm forward or to the side at all (you shouldn't have to use your shoulder muscles every time you move your mouse!)...but you can just raise your fore arm from the elbow. This means you will probably need a lower keyboard/mouse drawer position.

Truly, working with a massage therapist experienced in working with these muscle groups can help, but even our clients who see us regularly are advised to have tools like this at home. We all sit for too long in bad positions or sleep in awkward positions, or work at a computer, so it's necessary to have some tools at home for self-care. Doing the stretches every day, or when you start to feel the tension pull on your shoulders, neck or upper back will help to keep the pain at bay.


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