Exercise and stretching for shoulder blade pain is the best long-term solution.
Stretching alone often will not give the desired result and many of my clients have come to me and said that while stretching helps for a little while (a few hours), it doesn’t really give them the long-term relief they are looking for.
In this article I’m going to share many different exercises and stretches that you can try, along with videos, to help you get long-term results.
If you’re wondering why you’re having shoulder blade pain, then the article I linked to in this sentence would be a good one to check out, too.
Feel free to skip down to the exercise videos by clicking on the appropriate hyperlink in the table of contents.
- A combination of resistance training and stretching is a good way to help get long-term relief from shoulder blade pain
- If you are going to try these exercises, try one at a time and make sure to read that section in detail so you don’t flare things up
- If it’s been more than a couple of weeks and you have been following the guidelines I’ve shared below and are still experiencing discomfort, please reach out to a healthcare provider to get you moving in the right direction.
The Benefits of Exercise and Stretching for Shoulder Blade Pain
As I shared above, stretching alone is often not an effective way to alleviate pain in the long term.
Exercise that challenges the rhomboid and middle trap muscles seems to be more effective based on the clients that I have worked with.
Currently, there is no scientific evidence that I can find that shows a more “optimal,” approach so please keep in mind that this is all based on my perspective from working with clients in my clinic.
It’s my perspective that exercise that works the mid-back muscles helps in the long term with this issue for a few reasons:
- It works the muscle and increases its tolerance to load. Increasing its tolerance to load gives it better durability and so it can withstand more stress including if you are in one posture for a very long time or are in a job that is very repetitive.
- Increases the internal temperature of the muscle. This generally gives some short-term relief, similar to how stretching does. But, if the muscle is strained (which it may or may not be), warming up the muscle and using it is generally a better approach than passively stretching it.
In this next section, we’ll go through the different types of exercises and stretches that you can try.
Types of Exercises and Stretches for Shoulder Blade Pain
For each of these, I recommend testing out one at a time. The problem that many people run into is they try everything all at once. Then, when things are hurting worse the next day, they have no idea what exercise (if any) caused an irritation of symptoms. Don’t be that person.
My recommendation is that you should try one exercise per day and see how you feel the next day. If you’re no worse, you are free to add another exercise/stretch.
I believe in simplicity when it comes to recovering from pain and injury and using a very systematic approach.
For these exercises, start with three sets of ten repetitions. You can change how many sets and reps you do, this is just an easy starting point.
These are great because you are working the mid back muscles through their full range of motion and adding in controlled upward and downward rotation. They can be quite challenging and I’d recommend starting without weight to begin with.
Bent over rows
These are super simple and as long as you have dumbbells or kettlebells you should be able to do them. If you don’t have that equipment I’d recommend purchasing some. You can use this link here for some adjustable ones.
This is another great exercise that works the mid back muscles and also the posterior deltoid.
Seated rows are another variation of back training if you have trouble getting the form right on the other ones, or, have some other limitation that makes the other movements, too difficult.
Single arm rows
This is the first and only single arm work I have on here. Just be careful with these ones to not extend super far at the bottom and to control it the entire time. There should be no bouncing of the weight and there should be constant tension.
If you have access to a gym or a home gym, these are great. Additionally, if you don’t have a machine you can always use a band and loop it through your door or some other stable surface, overhead.
This is more of a specialty type lift and you’ll need a barbell for this. If you don’t have access to this one, no worries, just do the other ones. I personally love T-bar rows for general back strengthening
You might be wondering why in the world a squat is in here. Overhead squats put your shoulder blades into upward rotation. Additionally, you must maintain tension through your entire back to complete this motion effectively. This is a more advanced motion so don’t worry about it if you’re unable to complete it. It’s a fun movement to work on, though, nonetheless.
Hold these stretches for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3-5 times. Stretching can be helpful but remember that it’s more important to perform the exercises above. I often don’t have my clients do any stretching but I’m throwing these in here because I know you might want to know a couple.
Supine snow angels
Preparing for an Exercise or Stretching Session for Shoulder Blade Pain
The only thing you need to do to prepare for a session is to know what exercises you’re going to be doing. With all of the exercises I shared above you do not need to do some special warm-up.
The warm-up can just be the exercise itself with no weight or very lightweight until you feel like your body temperature is increasing. This usually takes between 5-8 minutes.
The only cautionary consideration or contraindication for exercise is if the movements are causing significantly more pain.
If you are performing these and you notice your pain keeps getting worse it’s important to modify your exercises.
If you are modifying properly and still experiencing issues, please see a healthcare professional, specifically a physical therapist.
Finding a Qualified Professional to Help with Exercise and Stretching for Shoulder Blade Pain
Not everyone will need to see a healthcare provider for this issue. In fact, most people will not need to.
But, in the event that your symptoms are not getting better after a couple of weeks even after trying exercises, or they are getting worse, I’d recommend working with a physical therapist on this issue.
I’ve shared this tip in other blog posts before but in order to find a great healthcare provider or any professional you should follow the following guidelines:
- Ask friends and family
- Cross-reference friends and family recommendations with google reviews
- Visit the website and read their treatment methods and make sure it’s what you’re looking for
- Give them a call and ask them if they have experience with the condition
- If that all checks out and you’re happy with them go ahead and schedule an appointment.
I hope this was helpful! If you have any additional questions and want to work with a professional who has experience with this issue, you can always reach out to us by texting us or sending us a message through our chat service at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.