Primary care medical doctors often refer their patients who have been suffering from upper back and shoulder pain to us. Many of those patients describe their symptom as “pain under my shoulder blade.” Doctors who are trained to analyze musculoskeletal complaints will refer these cases they label “rib fixation.” What that means is the inflammation of the muscles and nerves in the area where the joint, which connects the rib to the spine, is not moving properly. This condition can transfer pain into the arm if it begins to affect the group of nerves that transition nerves from the neck to the arm (the brachial plexus).
So how does a rib fixation occur and what can be done to fix it?
Rib head fixations happen when there is abnormal biomechanical stress put onto the upper back (thoracic spine) and or the chest. For example, fathers who let their children sit on their shoulders to watch Disney parades often visit our chiropractic office in downtown Orlando. The child’s weight compresses their upper back forward, but because of the cartilage supporting the ribs in their chest, the ribs as they attach to the spine (rib head) are forced backwards. This causes inflammation of the muscles in the area which then locks the rib in that position. Ribs, however, are designed to move. The rib moves up and down with each breath, allowing your lungs to expand properly. This explains why patients with rib head fixation can also experience pain when breathing. Another common cause of upper back pain from rib fixations is chest trauma. Imagine two people on a soccer field colliding. One person’s shoulder may strike the other in the chest. When it happens, the two shake it off and keep playing, but the person who was hit in the chest begins to experience pain under one of their shoulder blades and it doesn’t seem to get better.
Patients experiencing pain from rib head fixation can see limited relief from over the counter medications or even visiting a doctor for something stronger. That is where Nightlife Chiropractic can help. We have created a unique approach to correcting the fixation. After the chiropractor recognizes that the joint isn’t moving properly, he will provide a gentle hands-on adjustment designed to push the rib head back into position and restore normal motion. After the joint has regained motion, a manual therapist will provide massage therapy to the muscles connected to the joint to ensure that the muscles continue with their normal motion. After correcting rib head fixations for our patients, we also recommend they avoid sleeping on your side for two nights and put no weight across their shoulders for two days. This reduces the risk of their rib becoming stuck again.
Our office has had great success treating scapular pain or rib fixation cases in as little as two or three visits with relief of symptoms for up to four years! If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing pain from a rib head fixation, don’t hesitate to call us at (407)982-7733 to see if we can help.