Hi, I'm Dr. Molly with Your Goals Physical Therapy. Let's talk about stopping that muscle spasm that happens between your shoulder blades. So the other day I got a frantic phone call from somebody who rolled over in bed, super common roll over in bed, and was woken up instantly. All of a sudden she had a huge muscle spasm that was attacking a nerve and it was sending radiating pain up into her head. Every time she moved her head she had severe pain. She couldn't find a comfortable position. She was stuck. She was waking up every couple of hours because of giant shooting pain from her shoulder blade up to her head. Her head could be up too much. She couldn't lay on her side. It was just miserable. She took ibuprofen, she tried using heat. She tried sitting up in a chair. She tried everything that she could think of but she was just miserable all night. So when she calls me, she wants to know how to make this better. She was throwing out any and all ideas of things she thought she could do at that moment and asking what I thought. I thought it'd be good to make a video and kind of talk, what I told her.
What do you do when you wake up with searing pain that prevents you from being able to move your head or your shoulder throughout your day without dramatic sharp pain?
I'm going to give you the same tips I gave her. And then I'm going to talk about how to get rid of that pain and have it not come back. For some people, the reality is something like this happens every two or three months. Let's talk about how to make that pain stop. It is possible to make that muscle spasm, your back tight tension that everybody holds in their shoulder, go away forever.
First my suggestion was that she, instead of using the heat pack, find an ice pack and a comfortable position. As comfortable as you can get. So if that means that you can lay in a recliner with your head back a little bit and just resting against the back of the recliner, or if you can lay completely flat, which would be more ideal than then that's what you do for 10 minutes with an ice pack where the muscle spasm is. That way you're in the most relaxed position you can possibly be in.
When the ice is done, all you want to do is just gently move your head. While keeping your head either against the recliner or whatever surface it was resting on while you iced. You’ll just rotate right to left, nice and slow. Simply use whatever the range of motion your body will let you have. So you don't want to make it painful in both directions. You just go, whatever it will tolerate, set yourself a timer, go for about a minute.
Then you switch after that minute to moving your head up and then down, like you're saying “yes”, don't lift your head. Whatever that range of motion is available, some people don’t have a lot of range of motion or it can be painful in one direction.
Just do what you can for about a minute, if that helps, then try another round before you try to sit back up or get up from the chair to see if that's at least with the discomfort. The idea behind these simple motions is to try to calm down the muscle spasm between your shoulder blades is what's causing that severe pain. And as much as heat packs sound like the idea. A lot of times with this problem there's already a lot of inflammation involved and the hot pack just makes that inflammation a little bit worse, increasing your pain level. That is what I suggested and it helped my friend. Hopefully it will help you as well. Now, how do you prevent this from one happening and then prevent it from recurring every couple of months?
You need to find the root cause of the muscle spasm. Unfortunately, because it is your shoulder blade, that means that your shoulder or neck could be involved. And it's really hard to tell without having somebody look at you and see how you're moving and see your posture. Is it something that is shifting in your neck that's causing the muscle spasm? Is it something that’s shifting, it's very unusual but it could even be one of your thoracic vertebrae. The thoracic spine is where your rib cage is and that could be shifting a little bit causing that muscle spasm. Your body doesn't like anything to move in your spine, because that is very dangerous. The other thing is, and just kind of forgotten about is that your shoulder flexibility and stability plays a big role in what happens in your back.
If you have a shoulder that doesn't move too well, then your upper back might be trying to help compensate. So again, this is very complicated. There isn’t one cause so there’s not one solution. If I have 10 people then I will have 10 different solutions. There's normally a lot of different variables that are happening for each individual person, which is why when people try to do general exercise programs or just general corrective exercise protocols they maybe get you some of the issues to go away. But there's still something that's still not quite right. Everybody's so different. How you live your life is different. How you sit is a little different. Your home and work setup is different. Your home life is different. Since all these things are different to get rid of this problem, you need a very specialized plan for you. You're the only person that lives exactly your life and has exactly your body.
That is the type of service that I provide for people. I help people come up with very specific protocols or exercises that will help correct their specific problems. The nice thing is once you know how to do these things, you don't have to see me again, if it ever happens again. The idea is that we get rid of it and resolve the issue forever BUT we all know that after you get done, and you don't have any pain for a while people tend to slack off a little bit. It's just human nature. If it doesn't hurt, why are you going to keep treating it? But when you work with somebody and you learn how to fix it yourself, you don't have to call somebody again. You already have the tools in your house to fix the problem. So there you go. So those are the types of things that I help people with. And I hope that this information is very helpful. Have a great day.
WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald