Although this article should not replace a proper assessment by a healthcare professional it is important to note that pain coming from underneath or slightly beside your shoulder blade may mean that your rib joints are irritated. Sounds like a big deal but it is one of the most common things that I treat. What I find very unfortunate about irritated rib joints is that there are a large number of people living unnecessarily with this discomfort because they don’t know what it is or how to treat it. So let me explain the situation…
Your ribs form a joint that allow it to be connected to your spine. Since the moment you were born, every time you breathe these rib joints move up and down and just like any other joint in your body they can get irritated. Ribs are particularly irritated by perpetual poor posture typical of a sedentary desk job and/or commuting (forward head carriage and rounded shoulders). They are also commonly irritated and become painful following a cold with coughing. People who routinely work out may notice this mid back discomfort whenever they are lying on their back holding weight (example: chest or bench press). However, most individuals are unaware of this discomfort until they lean against a firm surface (chair or bed) or until I touch them. If left untreated they can eventually become painful at rest or with breathing. When significantly irritated they can also refer pain down the arm.
As mentioned, ribs wrap around from your back to the front of your chest and so what’s interesting about rib irritation is that it can be painful in your back, side or chest. It has been my finding that 90% of people feel it in the back and the remaining 10% either in the front or side of their ribs. As a word of caution, when dealing with ribs if an individual presents complaining of LEFT sided chest pain we need to entertain the idea that the discomfort can be coming from the heart located directly under the ribs. Rather than a chiropractic treatment this would be a medical emergency especially if accompanied by arm or jaw pain and/or shortness of breath.
If you have ever had a massage, which I have one every month, you might mistaken this discomfort for a “muscle knot” so follow this general rule: If the knot does not go away after 2-5 minutes of massaging – it probably won’t until the underlying rib is treated. An irritated rib joint will cause the overlying muscles to also become irritated and form what appears to be a “knot”.
Fortunately, ribs respond very well to being treated by chiropractic – either with a manual adjustment or using an activator instrument. I find the activator particularly helpful when dealing with some children, seniors or individuals who would prefer not having a formal adjustment. A typical irritated rib joint seems to take on average between 1-5 treatments. In addition to treating their ribs I address the reason(s) why it occurred in the first place and provide advice or exercises so as to avoid recurrences.
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