How to stop getting pain in between your shoulder blades

How to stop getting pain in between your shoulder blades

A question I’m often asked is:

“I’m getting this pain…here…at the back of my ribcage. Any ideas what’s causing it, Claire?”

Well, yes.

Yes, I do.

If you’re a regular attendee of my pregnancy fitness, antenatal Pilates or Mummies and Buggies classes, when you’re exercising, you’ll hear me say phrases like this a lot:

Image depicting rib thrust
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  • Relax your ribs
  • Drop the ribs down
  • Stop holding the chest up
  • When your arms are lifted, the ribs shouldn’t be
  • Stop thrusting the ribs out in front of the pelvis

If you take a look at the photo here, you’ll see a nice picture of me in standing with my rib cage pitched out in front of me.

The human skeleton should be aligned so that the front of the ribs actually sits flush with the front of the pelvis.

Don’t believe me?

Check out the skeleton at your GP’s the next time you’re there and draw a line with your eyes down from the base of the ribs, to the floor, and you’ll see that it sits down in line with the pelvis.

From side view, your skeleton should be aligned:

  • Ear on shoulder
  • Shoulder on rib
  • Rib on pelvis
  • Pelvis on ankle

When you jut your ribcage out in front of you constantly, assuming it looks better aesthetically, you’re effectively closing the space at the back of your rib cage which:

  • Makes it harder to get oxygen into your lungs and breathe optimally,
  • Shears / puts a kink in your spinal chord, and
  • Can be a contributing factor to the cause and rehabilitation of abdominal separation

A parent, teacher or significant person in your life may have said these phrases to you at some point in your lifetime:

  • “Sit up straight!”
  • “Stop slouching!”
  • “Stand up taller!”

And, your brain has interpreted this as:

  • Rib thrusting

There’s only so much the spinal column will tolerate, particularly if you’re stationary in one position for a long time, with the ribs thrusted out in front of you…

…before it sends a signal to your brain to say:

  • “Please stop that – it hurts!”

So, if you’re experiencing pain right at the back of your rib cage and you want some tips on how to get rid of it, here goes:

  • Relax your ribs
  • Drop the ribs down
  • Stop holding the chest up
  • When your arms are lifted, the ribs shouldn’t be
  • Stop thrusting the ribs out in front of the pelvis

Now, can you tell that I just totally copied those bullet points from the start of this article, and pasted them here…?!

Because I did.

A lot of pain is caused by mis-alignment of the skeleton.

Here’s a recap on how your skeleton should be aligned:

  • Ear on shoulder
  • Shoulder on rib
  • Rib on pelvis
  • Pelvis on ankle

Ah ha!  ANOTHER copy and paste job, did you see?

So, the next time you’re experiencing pain, how about you go back to these basic alignment cues, and see what it is you’re doing that’s throwing your skeleton off.

Are you poking your chin/head out in front of you to stare intently at your phone right now, and then wondering why you have neck pain?

Are you sitting for long periods and experiencing unexplained “back of the rib cage” pain?

Do you hold your baby in standing a lot with your pelvic weight thrusted out over your toes, putting undue stress on your lower back?

Yeah, so these few examples I’ve listed actually throw the loads to your skeleton way off, so it’s best to learn HOW to sit and stand better, and practise good alignment, little and often…

…and I guarantee, you’ll experience less pain as a result.

If you’re pregnant or postnatal reading this right now and you can’t get to the bottom of why you’re experiencing pain in certain areas of your body, then book on my next pregnancy Pilates class.

Concerned you’re not doing enough exercise that is specifically designed to strengthen and release the right muscles to prepare you for childbirth, then, you’ll want to book on my pregnancy fitness classes in Lady Bay which are an education in itself.

And, if want to learn how to hold, carry and care for baby without experiencing so much discomfort, my indoor postnatal buggy classes known as Mummies and Buggies are held 11am Wednesdays in Lady Bay and provide you with cardio and toning that leaves very few muscles unturned!

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Claire Mockridge
Claire Mockridge is an Ante/Postnatal Fitness Expert, Pilates Teacher and Train-the-Trainer. She's worked with over 1000+ pregnant and postnatal women and enjoys empowering and educating her clients on safe and effective exercise. Claire is a Health Columnist for the Nottingham Evening Post, a Health Expert for BBC Radio Nottingham, regularly writes for the national press and is the Winner of Theo Paphitis' Small Business Sunday Award.

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