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



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