Pain in the scapula during breathing: all you need to know

pain between the shoulder blades
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Have you ever felt a shoulder blade pain when breathing or even while coughing? You had decided to consult a health professional telling you that it was a back pain atypical ?

You weren't completely wrong. These back pain, accompanied by a difficulty breathing, can actually hide a health problem requiring the advice of a doctor.

This article will discuss the origin and mechanism of pain in the scapula felt during breathing, but also, the therapeutic options available to relieve them.

Zoom on the anatomy of the scapula

THEscapula ou scapula (from the Latin scapula designating “ shoulder ”) is an even, flat, triangular-shaped bone. It joins with the collarbone to form the shoulder girdle, a joint that contributes to the mobility of the shoulder.

anatomy of the scapula

General anatomical shape

Thin, asymmetrical bone, it presents to describe:

  • 03 Edges: superior, lateral or axillary, medial.
  • 02 Faces: anterior or costal, posterior or dorsal.
  • 03 Pits: supra and infra spinous behind, subscapularis in front.
  • 03 Angles: upper (2nd rib), middle (4th rib), lower (7th rib).


THEscapula is located on the posterior face (back) of the rib cage opposite the 2nd to the 7th ribs. It revolves:

  • With the clavicle, by the articular surface of the acromion.
  • With the head of the humerus, through the glenoid cavity.

The muscles of the scapula

THEscapula represents an insertion point for many muscles and tendons of the arm, neck and thorax.

It is connected to the 04 muscles of the shoulder which form the rotator cuff, that is, the set of muscles of the shoulder joint.

rotator cuff anatomy

It is also held in place by trunk muscles such as the serratus anterior. The trapezius also attaches to its spine and contributes to its mobility and stabilization.

Overview of Respiratory Biomechanics

La respiratory function is partially unintentional. It is typically divided into two functions:

  1. La lung function, which includes the bronchi and the lung parenchyma (tissue);
  2. La biomechanical function, which includes the rib cage, the diaphragm, the bony framework and the muscular system of the whole body. 
breathing mechanism

La biomechanics plays a vital role in respiratory efficiency and comfort. For optimal efficiency during daily activities, the tension level of the entire muscular system of the body, and not only the inspiratory and expiratory muscles, must be balanced.

This balance will influence the mobility of the rib cage and the spine (spine), therefore on the posture.

Situations of organic or physiological stress can seriously disrupt this balance. In this case, the muscles of the musculoskeletal system no longer react according to the usual anatomical and physiological functions.

All these respiratory and postural structures are supported by the Balanced Respiratory and Postural Support Center (CARPE), located between the navel and the pubis – resting on the sacrum.

This center of support allows the lengthening of the spine by stabilizing the abdominal mass and the pelvic floor. This support is the support and natural support for breathing and posture.

Why shoulder blade pain?

back pain and back pain

Bad back posture

Indeed, at the origin of middle back pain, bad habits are often found, such as:

  • Spending time on a phone with your head tilted forward,
  • Studying on a desk with an unsuitable screen height.

This results in a muscle contraction at the origin of vivid upper back pain. These can radiate to the cervical region, the shoulders as well as along the arms.

Shoulder injuries

A traumatic origin can also be the source of this pain, this is particularly the case when:

  • Shoulder dislocation: frequent trauma in young and athletic subjects, with a fall or a major shock. Two shoulder dislocations are possible : la glenohumeral dislocation and acromioclavicular dislocation.
  • tendonitis : the pain is typically felt laterally at the level of the region of the coracoid process or the acromion.
  • Fracture : fractures of thescapula are relatively rare, they occur especially in the event of violent shocks.
  • Scapula alata : it is a detachment of the scapula. This detachment is the consequence of nerve damage causing a muscle paralysis. This concerns the serratus anterior muscle, which initially has the role of flattening thescapula against the chest.
More information

Pain between the shoulder blades: 9 possible causes (and what to do?)

Chronic pathology

The pain ofscapula may be the consequence of a chronic disease :

  • Osteoarthritis: anti-inflammatory treatment is usually prescribed. Physiotherapy sessions may be recommended in addition.
  • La fibromyalgia, at the origin of a sensitivity to the touch of the shoulder blades, but also the rest of the back. Generally, intense fatigue or sleep disturbances accompany the pain.

More rarely, pain in the scapula may reveal other pathologies, especially if it is pain on the left side accompanied by chest pain Acute : A cardiovascular problem, a pulmonary pathology can be mentioned.

In this context, we ask you to consult a doctor urgently.

Pain in the scapula during breathing, explanations

Mediafixer back pain (back pain located next to the dorsal spine) in spike or stab type is a disorder that affects more than one person. the pain point is often found at the top of the back or in the middle of the back towards the scapula.

These pains prevent you from breathing normally because of a muscle or joint blockage that will penalize the rib cage in its respiratory movement.

Dorsalgia 2 Shoulder blade pain during breathing

First of all, it will be important to eliminate more serious pathologies such as heart disease and / or lung.

Once this doubt has been removed, it is a safe bet that this suffering is in fact the witness of a back blockage.

Personalized rib blockages, vertebrae thoracic (dorsal) and more rarely of the neck can generate this pain point at the top of the back.

Un rib lock can give rise to intercostal pain very acute, hampering breathing (inspiration and expiration) which prevents the patient from moving his back naturally.

Indeed, a good ventilation of the lungs requires that the rib cage can take an adequate expansion. However, this limitation of movement prevents the thorax from inflating fully. The pain may therefore be increased during coughing or during deep inspiration or expiration.

shoulder blade pain when breathing is to be assessed according to the degree of breathing difficulty:

  • If there is great difficulty in breathing with prolonged shortness of breath and limitation of movement, an emergency consultation to investigate the lungs and heart is recommended.
  • If the pain on breathing is mild and very localized, the pain is of costal or dorsal origin.
  • On the other hand, if the pain is diffuse at the end of inspiration, the problem is a blockage in the diaphragm.


Remember that any back pain accompanied by difficulty breathing, with or without chest pain, should be consulted with a doctor.

The main objective of the consultation will be to eliminate a visceral cause, in the first place cardiac ou pulmonary.

Work on your abdominal breathing

Some people tend to have a chest breathing. It is voluntary and short, working only the upper part of the thorax and thus neglecting the abdomen. It is a breath that does not allow mobilization of the entire spine.

diaphragmatic breathing

To avoid and relieve back pain high especially at the level of shoulder blades, a abdominal breathing recommended you. This allows a considerable reduction in muscle and joint stress as well as good oxygenation of the blood and therefore of the cells.


Mediafixer Stretching are effective in relieving upper and mid-back pain. They mainly focus on the scapular mobility and vertebral.

morning stretch to relieve lower back pain

Standing, spread your legs slightly and raise your arms in front of you while breathing deeply. Then exhale as you lower and bend your arms, gradually approaching the floor. This exercise is to be repeated 3 times, in the morning when you wake up or in the evening before going to bed.


A regular activity is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This will work your respiratory muscles: diaphragm and accessory muscles that insert into the spine.

A physical activity helps reduce the back pain and work on endurance.

Consider doing yoga ! The yoga is a good solution to relax, because it combines sports exercise and breathing work.


She may be indicated to relieve pain in the shoulder blades.

Through precise and localized manipulations, theosteopath can quickly relieve blockages in the ribs or vertebrae.

Physiotherapy to relieve shoulder blade pain

La physiotherapy can also help relieve sore muscles between the shoulder blades. Active deep muscle recruitment provides rapid relief.

La physiotherapy and l'osteopathy can very well combine with this type of pain.

kinesiologist works in a team
The kinesiologist deals with several aspects of health, in collaboration with other health professionals.


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