How to Fix Shoulder Blade Pain

STACK Expert Matt Tanneberg offers stretching and strengthening exercises to help relieve and prevent shoulder blade pain.

Shoulder blade pain may be a sign that your lifting form is incorrect, your posture is poor, or you are either too sedentary or too active.

Let's look at some ways to fix shoulder blade pain.

Improve Your Form

Improper shoulder lifts such as Military Pulls or Overhead Presses can aggravate pre-existing shoulder blade pain.

If you don't stay in retraction with your shoulder blades pulled down and in, your shoulders round forward and your trapezius muscles have to carry all the weight.

Be conscious of your form as you go through your upper-body workout routine. Make sure you stay in a retracted state. You must avoid slouching!

RELATED: Got Shoulder Problems? Never Do These Exercises

If you find yourself slouching in your desk chair or on the couch when you watch TV, place a small pillow behind your low back. This will help maintain the curve in your low back and keep your upper body upright while you're sitting.

Stretching Exercises

1. Rhomboid

(15-second holds, two on each side)

Sit at the edge of a chair. Reach forward with your right hand and grab your left ankle. Take your left hand and press down in the elbow crease of your right arm. Fully relax your right arm. You should feel the stretch through the rhomboid muscle on your right side. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.

2. Corner

(15-second holds at each level)

Hold your arms up and place your forearms flat against a wall. Hold the stretch with your arms at 90 degrees for 15 seconds. Raise your arms up about 45 degrees and hold for another 15 seconds. Fully extend your arms and hold for 15 seconds.

3. Retractions

(5-second holds, 10 repetitions)

Keep your head up against a wall in retraction. Pull your shoulder blades down and back. Don't move your arms or shrug your shoulders. You should feel a stretch through your upper back. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.

4. PB Ext

(5-second holds, 5 repetitions)

Lie back on a physioball and walk your feet forward. Once the ball is under your mid- to upper-back, relax your arms and let your head drop. Hold for 5 seconds. To get up, grab the ball, pick your head up first and slowly walk your feet back. Repeat 5 times.

5. Wall Angels

(10 repetitions)

The key to this stretch is to keep your arms and forearms flat against the wall. Hold your arms at 90 degrees and slowly press up, extending your arms directly overhead. Bring your arms back down in the same motion and repeat 10 times.

These exercises will help to extend the range of motion in the muscles around your shoulder blades. Ideally, you should go through them twice a day until the pain subsides.

RELATED: Exercises to Reduce Shoulder Pain and Prevent Injury

Strengthening Exercises

The following strengthening exercises will stabilize the muscles between and around your shoulder blades. Ideally, you should go through them twice a day until the pain subsides.

1. Wall Push-Ups

(5 repetitions at each level)

Keep your arms fully extended. Round your shoulders and hold for 3-5 seconds. Pinch your shoulder blades together and hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat five times, then bring your hands up higher. Repeat five times in the same motion. Raise your hands up even higher and repeat for five more repetitions.

2. Rows

(5-second holds, 10 repetitions)

The key with Rows is to keep your shoulder blades retracted. Keep your shoulder blades down and back and your elbows next to your sides. Pull back, pinching your shoulder blades together and hold for 5 seconds. Release and repeat 10 times.

3. Band Splitters

(10 repetitions)

Fully extend your arms in front of you. Separate the band as far as you can and hold for 5 seconds. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Don't shrug your shoulders or put unnecessary stress on your trapezius muscles.


Use a foam roller or tennis ball/lacrosse ball on your mid-back. Roll around until you find tender spots. Stay on a spot for 20-30 seconds to help break up knots in the muscle. Next, go through the above strengthening exercises to stabilize the area. Then, go through the above stretching exercises. Finally, ice your upper back to relieve any inflammation and soreness. Leave the ice on until your muscles go numb (usually about 15-20 minutes).

If this routine doesn't relieve your shoulder blade pain, consult your MD, DC or PT. Active Release Technique (ART) is a technique used by chiropractors and physical therapists to break up adhesions in the muscles.

RELATED: Rehab for Shoulder Injuries

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock