The shoulder blade, or scapula, is a sturdy, flat, and robust triangular bone that forms the back of the shoulder girdle. It serves as a link between the clavicle and the humerus, and enables the highly mobile and versatile shoulder joint to move through its full range of motion.
The scapula provides attachment to several major groups of muscles and ligaments. This strong and sturdy bone also protects the upper part of the posterior chest.
The soft tissues and nerves near the scapula can become injured, limiting arm movements, and interfering with daily activities.
Acute pain below the shoulder blade may result from prolonged sitting with poor posture, such as hunching forward, which can weaken the muscles and ligaments that attach to the scapula.
Similarly, lifting heavy objects overhead can injure the soft tissues in the upper back, or potentially injure the shoulder joint or spine, causing referred pain near the scapula.
Overuse injuries can cause snapping scapula syndrome, in which the bursa between the scapula and thoracic spine can become painful.
Spinal conditions, such as a cervical herniated disc or compression fracture, rib fractures, or heart problems can also cause referred pain near the scapula.
Shoulder blade pain can range from being sharp or burning to tender or achy and span across the shoulder and upper back.
Pain that gets worse over time, interferes with daily activities, or is accompanied by other red flag signs and symptoms—such as headache, tingling, weakness, or nausea should be evaluated by a doctor.