What Causes Pain Between Shoulder Blades After a Car Accident and What Can Be Done?

Getting in a car wreck was the last thing you expected when you got out of bed this morning, and now your car will be at the mechanic for a week. 

Not only that, but now you have pain in between your shoulder blades after the accident.

Yet you are not alone; many suffer from this condition. 

Learning about what causes this pain can help you find relief. 

Therefore, we compiled information to help you understand what you can do to get back to feeling how you were before the accident. 

pain between shoulder blades when breathing after car accident

Table of Contents

7 Main Causes of Pain Between Your Shoulder Blades After a Car Accident

Do you suffer from pain in your back between your shoulder blades after a car accident?

We all have paraspinal muscles that run along the spine, allowing us to hold our heads up. And after experiencing a collision, a lot of referred pain from the neck can end up going into the shoulder blades or between the shoulder blades — resulting in unbearable pain.

During a collision, such as a frontal collision, your head may be forcefully pushed forward, and as your muscles get stretched and torn, you may feel pain in your back between your shoulder blades after a car accident. 

Unfortunately, neck and back pain are not the only issues that arise; shoulder pain is yet another common injury after a car accident. This pain is often caused by the seat belt and how your arms were positioned when you braced for impact.

It is important to note that this pain may not develop for a few days. Always make an appointment for an exam if you have been in an accident.  

Cascade Spine & Injury Center is open for new clients and is ready to help design a treatment plan for your specific issue. Book an appointment today

upper back pain between shoulder blades after car accident

#1: Whiplash

Whiplash is probably the most common injury from an accident, and it can take some time to feel the effects — up to 48 hours.

Whiplash is a neck injury that happens when your head is jolted back and forth — and this can negatively impact your shoulders. The pain often moves in between your shoulder blades.

When discussing referred pain, one example is when a neck injury causes pain to radiate down the body, such as from whiplash.

The following are common whiplash symptoms:

  • A stiff neck and shoulder
  • A burning sensation between shoulder blades
  • Numbness
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Back pain
  • Shoulder pain; and
  • A tingling feeling
pain in back between shoulder blades after car accident

#2: Dislocation

A dislocation happens when the ball of your shoulder pops out of its socket. The joint may pop back in by itself, yet at other times it stays dislocated, and you can’t use it in this condition. 

If not treated right away, dislocation can also cause tears.

#3: Labral Tear

In your body, the labrum supports the bones around the ball and joint socket by holding them in place. It is a band of fibrous tissue.

Labrum and rotator cuff tears are soft tissue injuries that can cause: 

  • Upper back/shoulder pain
  • Joint dislocation; and
  • Limits to your range of motion

#4: Rotator Cuff Tear

A collision can create an impact on your shoulder which can strain its tissue, leading to a tear. One sign of this injury is that moving your shoulder, or the rest of your arm, is painful. 

#5: Fractures

A collision can create an impact that causes enough physical trauma to break a bone forcefully. 

Broken bones, such as…

  • A collar bone
  • Your shoulder
  • Ribs; and
  • An upper arm

… can also cause referred pain to the upper back.

Broken bones often occur when you are slammed into the side of your vehicle during an accident.

#6: Bursitis

Bursitis is usually a repetitive strain injury. However, if the impact from an accident strains the bursae — which cushions your joints, so they don’t rub against bone — bursitis can also occur.

Inflamed bursae are painful and make it difficult to move the injured joint. 

#7: Rib Injuries

Broken, fractured, strained, and bruised ribs can also cause referred pain between the shoulder blades. 

A rib can also be moved slightly out of place from a car accident.

When a rib is out of place, you may feel a sharp pain when you:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Cough; and
  • Sneeze

What Treatments Are Available for Upper Back Pain Between the Shoulder Blades After a Car Accident?

Various treatments can address the primary cause of the pain to reduce and eliminate it. 

The first thing to consider is where the referred pain is coming from.

It may be coming from your:

  • Neck
  • Ribs; or
  • Shoulder

First and foremost, you must determine the primary issue. Then you can figure out the best treatment plan.

If you have shoulder pain, compensation of the muscles, or just referred pain from the shoulders, you’ll sometimes have pain between the shoulder blades.

pain between shoulder blades after car accident

Chiropractic Care

It is recommended to see a chiropractor within 72 hours after an accident. You may also need to see a general or primary care physician for an overall assessment. 

Many doctors recommend chiropractic treatment after a collision.

The following are the top types of injuries that can improve with chiropractic care:

  • Back/spine/neck injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Chronic soreness
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Damage to ligaments 

According to the National Library of Medicine, chiropractors treat a large number of motor vehicle accidents. In one study, 40.2% of the patients needed ongoing chiropractic treatments to ease the pain.

Chiropractors make adjustments after collisions. 

For example:

  • A rib may need to be popped back into place.
  • If it’s a neck injury, you might need to adjust in that area between the shoulder blade to help loosen up the neck so there’s less stress going through the neck.

Generally, chiropractors don’t adjust the area right where the injury is. 

Find exactly where your pain is coming from so you can have a personalized treatment plan for your specific injury by making an appointment at Cascade Spine & Injury Center. 

upper back pain between shoulder blades after car accident


There are specific exercises patients can do to:

  • Increase their mobility
  • Stretch to create flexibility; and
  • Strengthen affected areas

Patients may need to work to strengthen a specific area or to create flexibility to heal.

Rehabilitative exercises are always an essential part of recovery. Working with an expert is necessary to ensure you are doing the appropriate activities. 

Contact Cascade Spine & Injury Center to help you get on track and feel better. Our professionals know exactly how to treat your specific injury. 

Schedule your first appointment online.

Massage Therapy

Since the body tends to compensate to protect against injuries in other parts of your body, massage therapy can help find exactly where the pain is coming from. 

In addition, massage therapy can loosen up muscles and get the blood flowing to your injured areas. Releasing tension will bring relief. 

One study shows that massage therapy may be more beneficial than inactive therapies in reducing neck and shoulder pain. 


Other therapies like acupuncture can help alleviate pain and are often used alongside massage therapy. 

Acupuncture can help: 

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Increase blood flow to specific areas
  • Increase your range of motion; and
  • Release tight muscles

Other Modalities

Other modalities can also help lessen pain. 

You may find relief from: 

  • Electric muslce stimulation like IFC or TENS
  • Cupping
  • Topical creams
  • Heat
  • Stretching
  • Ultrasound; and
  • Ice

When To Seek Treatment for Pain Between Your Shoulder Blades

Seek help as soon as possible. 

The sooner treatment begins, the quicker the injury can be resolved or even cured. The longer you wait, the more likely you will develop additional issues or lasting pain. 

After a car accident, some injuries may take days or weeks to appear, so even if you don’t have immediate pain, a chiropractic assessment is recommended.

Contact Cascade Spine & Injury Center in Portland for the Treatment of Upper Back and Shoulder Pain After a Car Accident

You may have burning pain between your shoulder blades after a car accident.

Or you may feel pain between your shoulder blades when breathing after a car accident.

No matter what you feel, now is the time to take action so you can find relief

Start your recovery today. Contact Cascade Spine & Injury Center. 

We specialize in auto injuries and are a multi-disciplinary clinic offering providers in:

  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture; and
  • Massage therapy 

Alleviating pain will improve your well-being. 

Dr. McClaren is an accredited Accident Reconstructionist with over a decade of experience working with people injured from collisions. Our chiropractors are ready to help you feel like yourself again.

Our staff takes the time to understand your:

  • Concerns
  • Symptoms; and 
  • Health goals 

Make an appointment today. We will conduct a thorough evaluation to create a tailor-made treatment plan.

upper back pain between shoulder blades after car accident

The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

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