Pain in the base of the neck, and in between shoulder blades.

by Andrew
(Erie, PA, USA)

Does raising the arm above the head relieve, or aggravate the pain, or make no difference?

Does raising the arm above the head relieve, or aggravate the pain, or make no difference?

Pain in the base of the neck, and in between shoulder blades.

I have been working out and lifting weights for the past 4-5 months. The first time I felt this sharp pain was when I was performing an incline bench press. Upon lifting the weight off of the rack, I resisted the weights force with my neck, against the bench and I felt somewhat of a crack (similar to when you crack your own neck after sitting for a while.) Except this crack was accompanied with a sharp pain and it felt like it was deep within and at the lower base of the neck.

After taking NSAID's for a couple days and resting/stretching, I found that running prior to a workout, gave me a good warm-up and I would not experience that same event. However, one day I was in a rush and did not run, and I was performing a standing barbell shoulder press. The same pain radiated however it was a little bit lower this time. Somewhere between the shoulder blades and in the middle of the neck.

I ended up following the same "resting" procedure as I did the first time, the week before. And the flare up seemed to go away after a few days.

After that, I had not had a flare up however my neck has been stiff when waking up in the mornings. Just recently, 3 months after my last flare up, I experienced a similar flare up as I did the first time, even considering that I had a proper warm-up.

I guess my question is, how do I know that this is either a pulled muscle or a pinched nerve?

The pain is pretty bad and tends to stay in the base of the neck, in between shoulder blades, and middle of the neck region. I do not have any tingling in my fingers or arms. I do not have any weakness. Pain is around 7-8/10. I initially started taking 400mg of ibuprofen bid for two weeks but now am taking 600mg of ibuprofen t.i.d. and that seems to be working better for me. I have been performing a stretch where I can really feel the point of pain. The stretch is: hold a belt to my forehead with both hands and push my head forward while resisting with the belt. Also, another movement that really hurts is when I'm laying flat on the ground, and lift my head up just slightly. I can definitely feel the pain then.

Hello Andrew,
Remember in principle exercise is supposed to make you healthier, not injure you. Unless you're training for the next Olympics, which obviously means testing the limits, it sounds like you're over doing it.

If you turn your head to the side and then look up, does it cause any pain? Where? It's good that it's not radiating down your arm, but the muscles between the shoulder blades are supplied by the deep scapular nerve which comes from the lower neck, C5 to be precise, so this could be coming from your neck.

The fact that resisted neck flexion provokes the pain confirms this is likely the problem.

However, a rib head, or even a spinal fixation in the midback provokes similar symptoms. Does rotating and laterally flexing your torso provoke anything? A deep breath?

This has gone on for a long time; time to look for a competent local chiropractor; talk to friends and family.

I hope this contributes.

Dr B

» Pain in the base of the neck, and in between shoulder blades.

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

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