Burning pain under your shoulder blade

Published: 05th November 2009
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What causes upper back pain rib area

Pain in the upper back around the rib area is a common problem. There are many and varied causes for pain in that area. The most common and most painful is an inflamed rib. Other causes include muscle spasms, nerve compression, rib fracture, muscle tears and even cancer

Ribs commonly get inflamed. The reason for this is due to our anatomy. Ribs attach to the spine in the thoracic region. They loop around your sides and attach to the breast bone at the front. They are designed like this to protect our vital organs (heart, lungs liver and spleen) and help us breathe. With increasing stability and protection comes decreased mobility. So if there is a slight twist in your spine, the ribs cannot move freely and in fact torsion slightly to accommodate the twist. This torsion causes inflammation at the joints either at the spine or in the chest.

Acute cases of rib inflammation are common after injuries (fall skiing, rugby tackle) or with people straining in a twisted position (lifting a heavy suitcase into the boot of a car or heavy overhead activity). This is characterised with sharp pain under the shoulder blade, pain on breathing and aching pain at night in bed. It is common for people to think they are having heart problems when it is just rib pain. Chronic cases are more common with people that spend a lot of time in a slightly twisted position. For example hairdressers or guitar players.

To treat this condition the best response is to get the rib adjusted by a chiropractor. Instantaneous relief is common with chiropractic treatment of rib subluxations. If you think you may have heart problems always get it checked by your GP.

Other causes include muscle sprain, spasm or strain. Muscle strains are caused by overexertion of a muscle creating micro-tears in the tissue. When you work out you create multiple mild strains in the muscle which is why you are sore after activity. The muscles repair themselves within 3 days. Muscle spasm pain is different. It is caused by a muscle working a lot harder than it should for an extended period of time. The most common reason is due to postural imbalances. To hold yourself in a twisted position requires some muscles to work a lot harder and some to do little. Over a long period of time this leads to spasms in the hard working muscles and weaknesses in the others.

Nerve compression can also cause upper back rib area pain. It is characterised by a general aching feeling and instants of sharp electric pain most likely running into your arm. Compression of nerves in the neck is the most likely culprit. Get an x-ray examination to check the state of your neck.

Lung cancers in the upper lobes of your lungs can also cause pain in that region of your back. It is characterised by dull constant pain that doesn't change with movement or massage. See your doctor ASAP if you have this condition.

Doug Eldred is a Chiropractor in West Ryde, Sydney, NSW. He has a particular interest in helping people get their bodies back into balance, and consequently living a pain free and completely mobile, long, healthy life.




Doug has a particular interest in helping people with headaches and neck pain, shoulder blade pain, low back pain, and fott, ankle, knee and spinal problems caused by foot dysfunction.

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